Purpose The purpose of this study is to investigate the optimization of design and energy management in a parallel hybrid-electric powertrain to replace the conventional engine of an existing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a Wankel engine with a pre-defined flight mission. The proposed powertrain can work in four different operating modes: electric, thermal, power-assist and charging. Design/methodology/approach The power request at propeller axis of each flight segment is used as input for an in-house model that calculates the overall fuel consumption throughout the mission (Mfuel) and the maximum payload weight (Wpay) by means of an average-point analysis. These outputs depend on the energy management strategy that is expressed by the power-split ratio between engine and electric phase (Uphase) of each mission phase, according to which the components of the hybrid system are sized. The in-house model is integrated into an optimization framework to find the optimal set of Uphase and battery size that minimizes Mfuel and maximizes Wpay. Findings It was found a 3.24% saving of the fuel mass burned throughout the mission (or, alternative an improvement of endurance by 4.3%) with about the same maximum-payload mass (+0.2%) of the original configuration, or a smaller fuel saving with +11% more payload. The fuel saving of 3.24% corresponds to -3.25% in total emissions of CO2 and a 2.34% reduction of the cost-per-mission. Practical implications - This study demonstrates that environmental advantages, even if limited, can be already obtained from optimal design and management of the hybrid power system with today technologies while waiting for further benefits from the introduction of advanced technologies for batteries and electric machines. Originality/value The main novelties are the design of the powertrain on the basis of the energy management and the application of scalability and hybridization to Wankel engines.
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