(19)
(11)EP 3 169 583 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
04.11.2020 Bulletin 2020/45

(21)Application number: 15748084.9

(22)Date of filing:  10.07.2015
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
B64C 1/22(2006.01)
B64D 47/08(2006.01)
B64D 9/00(2006.01)
B64C 39/02(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2015/039890
(87)International publication number:
WO 2016/010842 (21.01.2016 Gazette  2016/03)

(54)

MODULAR MOUNTING STRUCTURE WITH EMBEDDED ELECTRICAL CONDUIT

MODULARE MONTAGESTRUKTUR MIT EINGEBETTETEM ELEKTRISCHEM ROHRLEITER

STRUCTURE DE MONTAGE MODULAIRE AVEC CONDUIT ÉLECTRIQUE INTÉGRÉ


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 17.07.2014 US 201414333621

(43)Date of publication of application:
24.05.2017 Bulletin 2017/21

(73)Proprietor: Textron Systems Corporation
Hunt Valley, Maryland 21030 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • USKERT, Richard C.
    Monkton, Maryland 21111 (US)
  • NESLINE, Paul
    Columbia, Maryland 21046 (US)

(74)Representative: Keenway Patentanwälte Neumann Heine Taruttis 
PartG mbB Postfach 10 33 63
40024 Düsseldorf
40024 Düsseldorf (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
KR-A- 20110 122 469
US-A1- 2005 029 399
US-A1- 2014 097 296
US-A- 4 318 328
US-A1- 2012 160 961
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    OVERVIEW OF INVENTION


    Technical Field



    [0001] The present disclosure relates generally to apparatus for attachment of a payload to an aircraft. In particular, the present disclosure relates to modular apparatus for attachment of a payload to an air vehicle, such as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

    Background



    [0002] The current art exists for attachment of an payload to an aircraft, specifically, a UAV, that consists of multiple threaded or lug connections to a floor. These connections are often specific to the payload being attached, prohibiting the mounting of an alternate payload in the same location without modification to the floor structure or through the use of an adapter plate.

    [0003] US 4,318,328 discloses a carrier, particularly an aircraft, including one or more guide tracks, an endless positioning chain associated with each guide track for supporting a payload item, and one or more drive motors for moving the chains in unison with respect to the guide tracks to move a payload item toward an ejection station. The carrier is particularly suited for reversibly converting an aircraft to a platform for carrying and launching one or more rockets or cruise missiles.

    [0004] US2012/0160961 describes cargo storage and handling system for aircraft, wherein a rack assembly mounts in an upper portion of the fuselage to form a cargo area in the upper lobe thereof. The system is adapted and configured to raise e.g. containers from a main deck of the aircraft to the upper lobe cargo area by a lift mechanism.

    [0005] US2014/0097296 describes an aircraft cargo compartment container crane system including an aircraft having an upper passenger compartment and at least one lower cargo compartment, wherein the passenger compartment and the cargo compartment are separated by a floor and a crane assembly connected to a structural element of the cargo compartment beneath the floor. The crane assembly is configured to lift and move a cargo container within the cargo compartment along a longitudinal axis of the aircraft.

    [0006] US2005/0029399 describes a system for extending and retracting an object, such as a camera or sensor, outside and inside a body of an aircraft, wherein the system comprises a mounting structure and a linear guide connected to the mounting structure for extending and retracting a platform carrying the object.

    [0007] KR20110122469 discloses an image sensor lifting device for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for safely transferring the image sensor into the moving body of the UAV or to the outside of the UAV.

    [0008] Therefore, an improved method of attaching an payload to an aerial vehicle is needed that can easily be incorporated into the structure of the aerial vehicle, that allows for quick and easy load and unload of a payload.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0009] 

    FIGURE 1A is an iso-metric view showing an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 1B is a simplified cross-sectional view of an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 2 is a cut away, exploded view of an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 3 is a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 4 is an isometric view of an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 5 is a simplified plan view of an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 6 is an isometric exploded view of an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 7 is an exploded view of an embodiment of the invention,

    FIGURE 8 is an isometric exploded view of an embodiment of the invention, and;

    FIGURE 9 is an isometric view of an embodiment of the invention.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION.



    [0010] Embodiments in accordance with the present disclosure are set forth in the following text to provide a thorough understanding and enabling description of a number of particular embodiments. Numerous specific details of various embodiments are described below with reference to attachment of payloads to an aerial vehicle, but embodiments can be used with other features. In some instances, well-known structures or operations are not shown, or are not described in detail to avoid obscuring aspects of the inventive subject matter associated with the accompanying disclosure. A person skilled in the art will understand, however, that the invention may have additional embodiments, or that the invention may be practiced without one or more of the specific details of the embodiments as shown and described as long as they do not depart from the scope of the appended claims.

    [0011] Referring to FIGS. 1A, 1B, 2, 3 and 4 which depicts an embodiment of the modular mounting structure 10 in accordance with the invention. It should be noted that the figures may only show one half of the vehicle structure and it is understood that the structural features discussed will be essentially symmetrical about the vehicle's longitudinal centerline.

    [0012] Aircraft structure 12 is well known in the art and can be fabricated using many well known processes. A lower rail 14 and upper rail 16 extend along a longitudinal axis of the aircraft structure 12 in the general area of an aircraft's payload region denoted generally as item 20 which is adjacent to a payload bay 22. The lower rail 14 and upper rail 16 are sized and configured to allow for a payload to be dropped in from above and interface with both rails 14 and 16. The rail 14 and 16 cross-section is shown in the figures as circular in nature, but that is not a limiting feature and the cross-section can be any suitable cross-section that allows for easy engagement with a payload mount.

    [0013] An embedded electrical bus 18 is disposed on an internal surface of the aircraft structure 12, preferably in the area of the rails 14 and 16. The electrical bus 18 is configured to allow for the quick and easy connection of the electrical components of a payload 30. The payload 30 is one of a high resolution camera, an infrared/thermal camera and a laser designator.

    [0014] Referring specifically to FIG. 2, the payload 30 along with a payload panel 28 is shown adjacent to the payload bay 22. Through the use of the modular rails 14 and 16, the payload may be mounted anywhere along the longitudinal length of the rails 14 and 16 rather than be mounted in a predetermined and fixed location. This feature therefore allows for the quick and easy mounting of various payloads without the need to make changes to the structure of the aircraft. In order to seal up the payload bay 22, a first panel 24 may be affixed to the aircraft using any well known means and it may also be advantageous to secure a second panel 26 to completely seal up the payload bay.

    [0015] Referring specifically to FIG. 4, which shows a unified structural component of an aircraft structure 12 wherein the lower rails 14 and upper rails 16 may be integrally formed surfaces of the aircraft structure 12. Alternatively, the rails 14 and 16 may also be attached to aircraft structure 12 using any well known attachment means.

    [0016] Referring now to FIG. 5, which depicts a mounting device 33 which is configured to interface with and lock onto rails 14 and 16. Mounting device 33 is comprised of a fitting 31 which is configured to engage the rails 14 and 16 as may be desired. A mount structure 32 extends from the fitting 31 and is configured to interface with the payload 30. In order to lock the mounting device 33 to the rails, a wedge 34 is inserted in a slot in the fitting 31. A threaded fastener 36 is inserted through the wedge 34 and is threaded into a nut 38 such that when the threaded fastener 36 is tightened, the wedge 34 is forced to engage the rail 14/16 and lock the position of the mounting device 33 in the preferred location. In this manner, several mounting devices may be employed to fixedly locate the payload 30 at a predetermined position within the payload bay 22.

    [0017] Referring now to FIG. 6, which depicts an alternative embodiment of a mounting device 39. In this embodiment, a first arm 40 and second arm 42 are inserted in a first clamp link 48 and a second clamp link 52 respectively. The clamp links 48 and 52 are configured to engage and clamp around the rails 14/16 as may be required in order to fixedly mount a payload 30. A center link 50 is disposed between clamp links 48 and 52 through the use of pins 54 and 56 such that the clamp links 48 and 52 rotate about the center link 50 to engage and disengage the rails 14/16. A threaded fastener 44 is inserted through second arm 32 and threadingly engages with first arm 40 such that the opening and closing of the mounting device 39 is controlled by the adjustment of the threaded fastener 44. A cap screw 46 may alternatively be provided to limit the amount of torque that can be applied to the fastener 44 to prevent over tightening of the mounting device 39. In this manner, several mounting devices may be employed to fixedly locate the payload 30 at a predetermined position within the payload bay 22.

    [0018] Referring now to FIG. 7, which shows another embodiment of a mounting device 59 wherein the rails 14/16 have a triangular cross-section. A first clamping link 70 and second clamp link 74 are pivotally connected to a center link 71. The clamping links 70 and 72 are configured to releasably engage around the cross-section of the mounting rails 14/16. A first pivot link 66 and second pivot link 68 are pivotally attached to first clamp link 70 and second clamp link 74 respectively. A mid link 64 is also pivotally connected between pivot links 66 and 68 such that as the mid link 64 is lowered, the first and second clamp links 70 and 74 rotate to an engaged position around the rails 14/16. Similarly, as the mid link 64 is raised, the first and second clamp links 70 and 74 rotate to a disengaged position from the rails 14/16. An adjustment screw 60, having a shouldered distal end 62 is configured to engage a threaded hole 72 disposed on center link 71 to facilitate the attachment of the mounting device 59 to the rails 14/16.

    [0019] Referring now to FIG. 8, which shows a mount 32 (see FIG. 5) which may be used to attach a payload to the rail structure. This embodiment of an attachment means is comprised of a payload attachment point 82 which may be rigidly affixed to a payload. A slot 83 disposed on the mount 32 is configured to accept a mounting bolt 84 that is inserted through a hole in the attachment point 82. The mounting bolt 84 threadingly engages a nut 80 which is configured to clamp done and affix the attachment point 82 to the mount 32. Serrated surfaces 81a and 81b may be provided on the mating surfaces of the mount 32 and the nut 80 to further secure the positioning of the payload to the rail structure. The slot 81 is provided to allow for the easy adjustment and placement of a wide range of payload sizes.

    [0020] Referring now to FIG. 9 which depicts a connector plate 90 electrically interfacing with the embedded electrical bus 18. The connector plate 90 is comprised of an electrical connector 92 which is configured to attach to an electrical cable of a given payload. The connector plate 90 is affixed to the structure of the aircraft by any well known means. The connector plate 90 may be placed anywhere along the structure of the aircraft which facilitates the installation of a wide variety of payloads that may have different cabling requirements.


    Claims

    1. An unmanned air vehicle (UAV) having a mounting system for the removable attachment of a payload (30) to the unmanned air vehicle, the unmanned air vehicle including an aircraft structure (12) having a payload area (20) adjacent to a payload bay (22), characterized in that:
    the mounting system includes:

    (i) a pair of lower rails (14) disposed adjacent the payload area (20) of the aircraft structure (12), said lower rails (14) configured to interface with the payload (30); and

    (ii) a pair of upper rails (16) disposed adjacent the payload area (20), said upper rails (16) spaced apart from said lower rails (14), said upper rails (16) configured to interface with the payload (30),

    wherein said lower rails (14) and said upper rails (16) extend along a longitudinal axis of the aircraft structure (12).
     
    2. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) of Claim 1, wherein said lower rails (14) and said upper rails (16) are symmetrically spaced about the longitudinal axis of the aircraft structure (12).
     
    3. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) of any of Claims 1 and 2, wherein said lower rails (14) and said upper rails (16) are integrally formed into the aircraft structure (12).
     
    4. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) of any precedingClaims, further comprising a plurality of mounting devices (33, 39, 59) configured to engage and lock onto said upper (16) and lower rails (14), each mounting device (33, 39, 59) being configured and arranged to attach the payload (30) to one of the upper (16) and lower rails (14).
     
    5. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) of any preceding Claim, further comprising an electrical bus (18) embedded into an internal surface of the aircraft structure (12), said electrical bus (18) being configured and arranged to electrically interface with the payload (30).
     
    6. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) of Claim 5, further comprising a connector plate (90) in electrical communication with said electrical bus (18), the connector plate (90) including an electrical connector (92) configured and arranged to attach to an electrical cable of the payload (30).
     
    7. The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) of any preceding Claim, wherein the payload (30) is one of a high resolution camera, an infrared thermal camera, and a laser designator.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Unbemanntes Luftfahrzeug (unmanned air vehicle - UAV), das ein Montagesystem für die entfernbare Anbringung einer Nutzlast (30) an dem unbemannten Luftfahrzeug aufweist, wobei das unbemannte Luftfahrzeug eine Luftfahrzeugstruktur (12), die einen Nutzlastbereich (20) angrenzend an einen Nutzlastschacht (22) aufweist, beinhaltet, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass:
    das Montagesystem Folgendes beinhaltet:

    (i) ein Paar unterer Schienen (14), die angrenzend an den Nutzlastbereich (20) der Luftfahrzeugstruktur (12) angeordnet sind, wobei die unteren Schienen (14) konfiguriert sind, um mit der Nutzlast (30) eine Schnittstelle zu bilden; und

    (ii) ein Paar oberer Schienen (16), die angrenzend an den Nutzlastbereich (20) angeordnet sind, wobei die oberen Schienen (16) von den unteren Schienen (14) beabstandet sind, wobei die oberen Schienen (16) konfiguriert sind, um mit der Nutzlast (30) eine Schnittstelle zu bilden, wobei sich die unteren Schienen (14) und die oberen Schienen (16) entlang einer Längsachse der Luftfahrzeugstruktur (12) erstrecken.


     
    2. Unbemanntes Luftfahrzeug (UAV) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die unteren Schienen (14) und die oberen Schienen (16) um die Längsachse der Luftfahrzeugstruktur (12) herum symmetrisch beabstandet sind.
     
    3. Unbemanntes Luftfahrzeug (UAV) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 und 2, wobei die unteren Schienen (14) und die oberen Schienen (16) in der Luftfahrzeugstruktur (12) integriert ausgebildet sind.
     
    4. Unbemanntes Luftfahrzeug (UAV) nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, das ferner mehrere Montagevorrichtungen (33, 39, 59) umfasst, die konfiguriert sind, um in die oberen (16) und die unteren Schienen (14) einzugreifen und auf diesen zu verriegeln, wobei jede Montagevorrichtung (33, 39, 59) konfiguriert und arrangiert ist, um die Nutzlast (30) an den oberen (16) oder den unteren Schienen (14) anzubringen.
     
    5. Unbemanntes Luftfahrzeug (UAV) nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, das ferner einen elektrischen Bus (18) umfasst, der in eine innere Oberfläche der Luftfahrzeugstruktur (12) eingebettet ist, wobei der elektrische Bus (18) konfiguriert und arrangiert ist, um mit der Nutzlast (30) elektrisch eine Schnittstelle zu bilden.
     
    6. Unbemanntes Luftfahrzeug (UAV) nach Anspruch 5, das ferner eine Verbinderplatte (90) in elektrischer Kommunikation mit dem elektrischen Bus (18) umfasst, wobei die Verbinderplatte (90) einen elektrischen Verbinder (92) beinhaltet, der konfiguriert und arrangiert ist, um diesen an einem elektrischen Kabel der Nutzlast (30) anzubringen.
     
    7. Unbemanntes Luftfahrzeug (UAV) nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Nutzlast (30) eine hochauflösende Kamera, eine Infrarot-Wärmebildkamera oder ein Laserdesignator ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Véhicule aérien sans pilote (UAV) ayant un système de montage pour la fixation amovible d'une charge utile (30) au véhicule aérien sans pilote, le véhicule aérien sans pilote comportant une structure d'aéronef (12) ayant une soute de charge utile (20) adjacente à
    un compartiment de charge utile (22), caractérisé
    en ce que :
    le système de montage comporte :

    (i) une paire de rails inférieurs (14) disposés adjacents à la soute de charge utile (20) de la structure d'aéronef (12), lesdits rails inférieurs (14) étant conçus pour s'interfacer avec la charge utile (30) ; et

    (ii) une paire de rails supérieurs (16) disposés adjacents à la soute de charge utile (20), lesdits rails supérieurs (16) étant espacés desdits rails inférieurs (14), lesdits rails supérieurs (16) étant conçus pour s'interfacer avec la charge utile (30),

    dans lequel lesdits rails inférieurs (14) et lesdits rails supérieurs (16) s'étendent le long d'un axe longitudinal de la structure d'aéronef (12).
     
    2. Véhicule aérien sans pilote (UAV) selon la revendication 1, dans lequel lesdits rails inférieurs (14) et lesdits rails supérieurs (16) sont espacés symétriquement autour de l'axe longitudinal de la structure d'aéronef (12).
     
    3. Véhicule aérien sans pilote (UAV) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 et 2, dans lequel lesdits rails inférieurs (14) et lesdits rails supérieurs (16) sont intégralement formés dans la structure d'aéronef (12).
     
    4. Véhicule aérien sans pilote (UAV) selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, comprenant en outre une pluralité de dispositifs de montage (33, 39, 59) conçus pour venir en prise et se verrouiller sur lesdits rails supérieurs (16) et les rails inférieurs (14), chaque dispositif de montage (33, 39, 59) étant conçu et agencé pour fixer la charge utile (30) à l'un des rails supérieurs (16) et des rails inférieurs (14).
     
    5. Véhicule aérien sans pilote (UAV) selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, comprenant en outre un bus électrique (18) intégré dans une surface interne de la structure d'aéronef (12), ledit bus électrique (18) étant conçu et agencé pour s'interfacer électriquement avec la charge utile (30).
     
    6. Véhicule aérien sans pilote (UAV) selon la revendication 5, comprenant en outre une plaque de connexion (90) en communication électrique avec ledit bus électrique (18), la plaque de connexion (90) comportant un connecteur électrique (92) conçu et agencé pour se fixer à un câble électrique de la charge utile (30).
     
    7. Véhicule aérien sans pilote (UAV) selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel la charge utile (30) est une charge parmi une caméra haute résolution, une caméra thermique infrarouge et un marqueur laser.
     




    Drawing
































    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description