Submitting Campus

Daytona Beach


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Document Type


Publication/Presentation Date



This technology survey is an investigation of various propulsion systems used in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Discussed are existing and near-future propulsion mechanisms of UAS, such as reciprocating piston engines, Wankel rotary engines, gas turbine engines, rocket-powered systems, electric motors, and battery-based systems. Also discussed are systems that use proton exchange membrane fuel cells, photovoltaics, ultracapacitors, and propellers. Each system is described in reference to a larger conceptual framework, with instances and profiles of existing UAS employing the system being described. Advantages and disadvantages of each type of propulsion system are identified along with associated technical issues and their respective applicability to a UAS context, all of which are described with regard to the concern over regulation and introduction of UAS into the National Airspace System.


Washington, D.C.

Additional Information


Air Traffic Organization, NextGen & Operations Planning, Office of Research and Technology Development, Washington, DC 20591