February 15, 2019

Army engineers get hands-on with futuristic tiltrotor aircraft

From left: Army aerospace engineers Andrew Kreshock, Dr. Matthew Floros, Bell Innovation Team Manager Andrea Chavez, and Army aerospace engineer Dr. Hao Kang tour a Texas facility where aircraft manufactor Bell is working on its Joint Multi Role Technology demonstrator.

Army aerospace engineers visited an aircraft manufactuer in Texas, to explore potential areas of collaboration on tiltrotor technology between industry and the Army.

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory, sent four engineers, Ethan Corle and Drs. Matthew Floros and Hao Kang, from its Vehicle Technology Directorate at APG, and Andrew Kreshock, from VTD’s field element at the NASA Langley Research Center, to visit Bell in Fort Worth, Texas.

While there, the group gave a seminar on the Army’s research in tiltrotors, which included an overview on the development of lab’s state of the art TiltRotor Aeroelastic Stability Testbed, known as TRAST. They discussed how the research could advance future vertical lift technology.

The laboratory is planning a workshop for May 2019 to present the TRAST design to academic and industry researchers such as Bell.

The researchers toured a nearby Bell facility and got a hands-on view of the V-280 Valor that the company is currently flight testing as part of the Army’s Joint Multi Role technology demonstrator program.

One of the Army’s modernization priorities is Future of Vertical Lift platforms — attack, lift, recon — in manned, unmanned and optionally-manned variants that are survivable on the modern and future battlefields. The TRAST is being built to provide experimental data on tilt rotor performance and stability and research new technologies to improve future tiltrotor aircraft.

Kang, a team lead at the lab, said he appreciated the opportunity to view the demonstrator up close.

“The concurrent development of the V-280 and TRAST provides a natural opportunity for collaboration beween the Army and Bell to advance tilt rotor technology for the future Army,” he said.

When compared to a conventional helicopter, the V-280 provides a dramatic increase in range and speed while retaining vertical lift capability of traditional edgewise rotor helicopters.

“The dramatic increase in performance has a price in terms of complexity and cost,” Floros said. “Bell highlighted a number of ways they are making the V-280 less complex to reduce production and sustainment costs.”

With TRAST, the Army and NASA will research how to make tiltrotors more stable and efficient. Floros said the test data will be valuable for government researchers and industry manufacturers to improve future designs.

Bell and Boeing produce the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor for the Navy and Marine Corps. In the 1990s, wind tunnel tests conducted in partnership between ARL, NASA and Bell advanced the development of the V-22.

VTD’s Vehicle Applied Research Division Chief Elias Rigas said his engineers are exploring areas of potential collaboration with Bell in a number of technologies in addition to tiltrotors and tiltrotor technology.

“We are very interested in engaging with industry partners,” Rigas said. “We want to foster opportunities where we can align with industry research and innovation groups on common interests.”

The intent is for these collaborations to help develop pathways to accelerate the transition of ARL knowledge and understanding that supports Army priorities as they relate to multi domain operations, he said.

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