Center for UAS Propulsion (CUP)


The Center for UAS Propulsion (CUP) will lead research focused on discovery, innovation, and transition of Unmanned Aircraft System propulsion technologies to enable unmatched, enduring maneuver power and mobility. The aim of the center is to address US Army needs for current and future advances in UAS propulsion systems in the following 4 areas:

  • Reliability: reliable operational cycles over extended periods
  • Payload: increase of electronics, cargo, and sensors (requires increase of power density)
  • Signatures: decrease in detection by opposing parties
  • Range: propulsion range during actual deployment

Collaborative focus

The main focus for CUP is ARL’s Multi-fuel-Capable Hybrid Electric Propulsion Program. This includes research in:

  • Extreme Fuel-Ignition Characterization
  • Variable Energy Assisted Compression Ignition
  • Reliable High-Temp Coatings/Lightweight Materials
  • Tribological Materials for Extreme Low Viscosity
  • High-Pressure Compact Air Management
  • Hybrid Electric Optimization/Integration
  • Power Management
  • Electric Machines for Hybrid Power
  • High-Power Advanced Batteries


  • Access to ARL’s DOD-unique facilities
  • Access to ARL’s propulsion-material characterization facilities
  • Access to various engines and air/ground vehicle test articles
  • Experimental and high-fidelity complex fluid-dynamics data published by the Center

Unique Facilities

  • Spray Combustion Research Laboratory (SCRL) with state-of-the-art optical diagnostics measurement capabilities
  • Small Engine Combustion Research Laboratory (SECRL) with single/multi-cylinder thermal engines, single-cylinder optical engines, state-of-the-art data acquisition and control (DAC), and numerous pieces of measurement equipment
  • Small Engine Altitude Research Facility (SmEARF) with simulated altitudes up to 30,000 ft and –40° to 130°F, fuel temp as low as –40°F, and state-of-the-art DAC and numerous pieces of measurement equipment
  • Tribology Laboratory with various tribometers including WAM14 ball-on-disk tribometer
  • High Temperature Propulsion Materials Laboratory (HTPML) with burner temperature up to 3,400°F
  • Small Turbomachinery Research Laboratory (STRL) with P, T, flow, and altitude control capabilities

Point of Contact

Mike Kweon, PhD
Chief, Propulsion Division Vehicle Technology Directorate

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Open to national and defense labs, universities, and industry. The CUP is currently partnered with  AMRDEC (ADD, AED), PM UAS, PEO Aviation, GA-ASI, Northrop Grumman, GM, GE-GRC, Convergent Science Inc, UIUC, UW-Madison, ISU, OSU, Northwestern, UIC, NASA GRC, SNL, ANL, UNSW (Australia), KAIST (S. Korea), ADD (S. Korea), and TAMU.

Concept of Operation

The CUP will use CRADAs, MOUs, and/or Cooperative Agreements to define the extent of collaboration, the disposition of intellectual property, and the sharing of research outcomes and laboratory resources. Government agencies interested in sponsoring UAS propulsion research may participate as a sponsoring agency.

Center for UAS Propulsion (CUP)