Small remotely piloted aircraft (10–25 kg) that are powered by internal combustion engines typically operate on gasoline with an anti-knock index (AKI) > 80. To comply with the single-battlefield-fuel initiative [Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 4140.25], interest has increased in converting power plants for these platforms to run on low-AKI fuels such as diesel and Jet-A with AKIs of ∼20. It has been speculated that the higher losses (short circuiting, incomplete combustion, heat transfer) that cause these engines to have lower efficiencies than their conventional-scale counterparts may also relax their required fuel AKI. The fuel-AKI requirements of three two-stroke spark ignition (SI) engines with 28, 55, and 85 cm3 displacements were mapped, and the performance was compared to that on 98 ON (octane number) fuel. Switching from 98 ON fuel to 20 ON (Jet-A and diesel equivalent AKI) fuel while maintaining optimum combustion phasing led to a 3–5 crank-angle degree (CAD) reduction in burn angle, a 2–3% increase in power, and a 0.5–1% (absolute) increase in fuel-conversion efficiency at non-knock-limited conditions through shortening of the CA0–CA10 burn angle. The efficiency improvement translates to a 6% increase in range or endurance. The results indicate that abnormal combustion is not a significant obstacle to operating small commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) engines on low-AKI fuels and that most of the power and efficiency improvements demonstrated in previous heavy-fuel conversion efforts were the result of modifications made to accommodate low-volatility fuels, not the faster burn rate of the low-AKI fuels themselves.

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