I O N I C S K I E S

About Us

We were an interdisciplinary capstone team at UC Santa Barbara, with the goal of designing, building, and flying an aircraft powered by ionic propulsion.

Why ionic propulsion?

Ionic propulsion is silent and has no moving parts!

How does it work?

Electrodes properly arranged and given thousands of volts will ionize and accelerate air molecules. Known as corona discharge, we can take advantage of this phenomenon to generate thrust. A power converter is used to step a 200V battery voltage up to the 40kV thruster drive voltage. The converter consists of an H-bridge, transformer, and Cockroft-Walton multiplier. Lithium-polymer cells are used as a lightweight power source.

Our design

Our final aircraft design, which we think can fly 1-2km in 4-8mins.

Our prototypes!

Our final, and best, unpowered glide. Fully laden with batteries and electronics, proved that we can fly straight and far.

Stallion prior to launch.

Converter delivering 40kV at 525W to a 2.9Mohm resistor load. The resistor load emulates the thruster's steady state properties. Multimeter on right is measuring kV.

A slightly better view of the converter test setup. In the center is the power converter. On the right is the 2.9Mohm resistor load. On the left is the main 190V battery stack.

Closer look at power converter. Bottommost PCB is cockroft walton multiplier. Blue assembly on far left is transformer. PCB on top is H-bridge inverter, with four MOSFETs and inductor visible. On middle left is our flight control board.

Slideshow with many pictures & details

Our latest slideshow presentation can be found here.

What we achieved

We gave ourselves 9 months to build the world's best ionic wind aircraft. In that time, we achieved a novel integrated airframe thruster design and showed that it flies stably and controllably, a working high voltage DC-DC power converter that delivered the power we needed, and a launcher that accurately accelerated the aircraft to its desired speed. There were multitudes of integrations between subsystems that we progressively designed out as the project matured. What we didn't do, is a powered flight of the aircraft. We ran out of time to fix a problem where the power converter would blow up when delivering the highest voltages to the thrusters. Throughout the year we overcame hundreds of problems - technical, logistical, and political - but the only problem that finally intervened was time. We still believe this is the best ionic wind aircraft design thus far.

Team
Thruster Team
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Dylan Hachmann
Thruster lead

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Mihir Shevgaonkar
Team lead

Airframe Subteam
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Sam Reynolds
Airframe lead

northrop

Jackson Bright
Airframe member

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CJ Westenhofer
Airframe member

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Harrison Erny
Airframe member

Converter Subteam
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Robert Enger
Converter lead

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Alexander Rivera
Converter member

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Chadwick Harris
Converter member

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Katiria Rivera
Converter member

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Kyle de la O
Converter member

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Carlos Perez
Converter member

Launcher Subteam
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Ryan Perkins
Launcher co-lead

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Steven Man
Launcher co-lead

Sponsors
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Jonathan Siegel

cnsi

Thank you to our sponsors for funding, advising, and encouraging our project!

Contact

ECE Capstone Advisor: Prof. Ilan Ben-Yaacov - ilan@ece.ucsb.edu
ME Capstone Advisor: Prof. Tyler Susko - susko@ucsb.edu
Team Contact: Mihir Shevgaonkar - mihir@protonmail.com

Advisors

Prof. Ilan Ben-Yaacov
Prof. Tyler Susko
Prof. Mark Rodwell
Prof. Elliot Hawkes
Dr. Jim Honea
Dr. Haofeng Xu