Tech

May 1, 2012

ONR-sponsored Flexrotor program takes off for next phase

by Katherine H. Crawford
Arlington, Va.

The Office of Naval Research-sponsored Flexrotor vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aerial vehicle entered the next development phase in delivering improved maritime surveillance capability April 30.

The contract is awarded for the flight controls component.

During this phase, Aerovel Corp. will advance Flexrotor’s capability with an upgraded propulsion system to transition from vertical to cruising flight, and to land in crosswinds and high winds. The aircraft’s first major milestone was in August 2011, when it successfully transitioned from horizontal to vertical flight and back again.

The small UAV features a unique design. It has an oversized propeller with helicopter-like controls for vertical takeoff and landing, and the wings of a conventional aircraft. The goal is that it will take off vertically, cruise efficiently horizontally and then land vertically.

“With Flexrotor, the two biggest benefits to Sailors and Marines would be the ability to do extended maritime surveillance from a ship, and to do so with a small footprint,” said John Kinzer, ONR program officer for Air Vehicle Technology.

Taking up less than one-half the space needed by other UAVs, Flexrotor would give Sailors compact, ship-launched, eye-in-the-sky capability. Additionally, it could stay airborne for a longer period of time. Thus, Flexrotor could help meet the Navy’s perpetual need for more and better maritime surveillance.

A vertical takeoff/landing craft requires a complex propulsion and flight control system. The propeller needs to be big enough to provide sufficient lift to take off vertically, yet small enough to be efficient while in horizontal flight. The flight controls must provide powerful and precise control in vertical takeoffs and landings, and efficient, low-drag control in forward flight. Perfecting both the rotor and other flight capabilities requires a constant balancing act among power, efficiency and weight, and this is what Tadd McGeer, Flexrotor’s inventor, is working out during phase II.

Since test flights to date have occurred with light winds, Aerovel will begin testing in windy conditions, gradually increasing the aircraft’s operating envelope.

Another aspect of the program, sponsored by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, is to develop an autonomous servicing capability. Aerovel is creating an Automatic Servicing Platform that would serve as launch and landing pad, as well as maintenance bay. This could be useful when deploying the Flexrotor to remote areas, as the aircraft could use this all-in-one hub without needing human assistance.

Kinzer said the platform could be beneficial for a special operations application of remotely siting a UAV.

“[The special ops personnel] like the idea of not exposing where they are when they need to launch and recover one,” Kinzer said. “They could put it on a mountaintop somewhere and just leave it to do surveillance.”

There are also potential applications to Arctic surveillance and weather reporting for the Navy and other organizations, such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 30 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and more than 900 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,065 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

 

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA photograph

NASA begins sixth year of airborne Antarctic ice change study

NASA photograph by Michael Studinger NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory is shown in its parking spot on the ramp at the Aeropuerto Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo in Punta Arenas, Chile, after its transit flight from NASA...
 
 
NASA photograph by Patrick Rogers

Scientific balloon launch highlights NASA exhibit at Balloon Fiesta

NASA photograph by Jay Levine Magdi Said, technology manager for NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, explains elements of NASA’s use of science balloons.   A live t...
 
 
NASA photograph by John Sonntag

Preparing for Antarctic flights in California desert

NASA photograph by John Sonntag The constellation Ursa Major looms over a GPS-equipped survey vehicle and a ground station to its left at El Mirage Dry Lake. By comparing elevation readings from both GPS sources, researchers ca...
 

 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

NASA-pioneered Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System operational

NASA photograph by Jim Ross The U.S. Air Force’s F-16D Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology (ACAT) test aircraft banks over NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center during a March 2009 flight.  ...
 
 
USF/WHOI/MBARI/NASA image

U.S. initiates prototype system to gauge national marine biodiversity

USF/WHOI/MBARI/NASA image NASA satellite data of the marine environment will be used in prototype marine biodiversity observation networks to be established in four U.S. locations, including the Florida Keys, pictured here. The...
 
 
NASA photograph by David C. Bowman

NASA helicopter test a smashing success

NASA photograph by David C. Bowman Technicians at NASA Langley pulled a helicopter 30 feet into the air before dropping it to test crashworthy systems.   The successful crash test of a former Marine helicopter could help l...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>