Electric motor donation marks beginning of Skydweller Aero and OSU partnership

Story provided by OSU News

An electric motor that circumnavigated the globe by air will soon have a new permanent home at Oklahoma State University.

Skydweller Aero Inc., an aerospace company whose global headquarters is located in Oklahoma City, will donate the motor to OSU for research and development efforts at its Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI).

The motor was originally flown on the Solar Impulse 2, a piloted solar-powered aircraft which circumnavigated the globe in 2016. Skydweller Aero acquired the aircraft in 2019 and is now in the process of converting and enhancing this aircraft to use as a testbed for developing an ultra-persistent unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for defense and commercial industries.

“We are excited to be working with Skydweller Aero on their advanced technology. This is a unique opportunity for OSU students and researchers at USRI to work on cutting edge systems and push the leading edge of aeronautics,” said Dr. Jamey Jacob, OSU professor of aerospace engineering and director of USRI. “OSU has been working on solar-powered aircraft for over 20 years, but this remains one of the hardest problems in aerospace engineering — to be able to assist in the pinnacle of solar flight is truly exciting.”

The USRI team first plans to test the engine in its propulsion cell in its Excelsior laboratory to gather valuable data and specifications for the engine to determine which projects will yield the most beneficial results.

Jacob said the partnership and donation will provide exciting opportunities for researchers to focus on new horizons that will benefit the aeronautics industry for years to come.

“University research and development partnerships are one of Skydweller’s top priorities,” CEO Dr. Robert Miller said. “We are thrilled to be donating our electric motor to Oklahoma State University’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute and look forward to continued opportunities for collaboration.”

Students and researchers plan to evaluate the current motor’s performance and advanced designs for Skydweller’s future vehicles. USRI will be testing the systems in their propulsion test lab, which will provide performance curves for them to optimize flight profiles and improve flight efficiency. Developing new motor designs and low speed propellers are some of the team’s specialties that they will rely on to give the motor a new life.

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