Simulation Model Shows Engine Ingesting Drone

By UAS Magazine Staff | November 16, 2015

Virginia Tech University researchers have developed a computer simulation model that reveals the effects of a small unmanned aircraft vehicle’s impact on an airliner’s turbofan jet engine. Current turbofan engines are designed to withstand the ingestion of birds, hail or small runway debris. Until now, the effects of a drone-to-engine encounter were unknown. “We never—in the design of these systems decades ago—thought about an actual rigid object as big as a drone flying next to the engine and being ingested by it,” said Javid Bayander, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech, and the director of the school’s Crashworthiness for Aerospace Structures and Hybrids (CRASH) lab.

The simulation research found that an sUAV could create significant damage to the engine. “A jet engine is a very delicate system and the tolerances are minute,” Bayander said. “If you introduce an unbalance to the system through the impulse that a drone brings with it and then cause even one blade to move a little bit off-center, everything around the shroud will be affected by it.”