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.


 
 

 
University of Rhode Island photograph by Tom Glennon

NASA kicks off field campaign to probe ocean ecology, carbon cycle

University of Rhode Island photograph by Tom Glennon The Research Vessel Endeavor is the floating laboratory that scientists will use for the ocean-going portion of the SABOR field campaign this summer. NASA embarks this week o...
 
 
NASA photograph by Carla Thomas

NASA’s high-flying laser altimeter to check out summer sea ice, more

NASA photograph by Carla Thomas This summer, the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar, or MABEL, will fly above Alaska and the Arctic Ocean on one of NASA’s ER-2 high-altitude aircraft. Sea ice in summer looks dramatica...
 
 
SOFIA

Outer space to inner space: SOFIA inside Lufthansa Technik hangar

NASA photograph by Jeff Doughty NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is shown inside the Lufthansa Technik hangar in Hamburg, Germany where it is beginning its decadal inspection. Flight, aircraft maint...
 

 
NASA photograph by Tony Landis

New life for an old bird: NASA’s F-15B test bed gets new engines

NASA photograph NASA’s F-15B flight research test bed carries shuttle thermal insulation panels on its underbelly during a research flight in 2005. NASA Armstrong’s F-15B aeronautics research test bed, a workhorse at th...
 
 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

Towed glider benefits from center’s new 3-D printer capability

NASA photograph by Tom Tschida The major components of NASA Armstrong’s new high-resolution 3-D additive manufacturing printer occupy a shelf in the center’s subscale aircraft research lab. Robert “Red” ...
 
 
NASA photograph by Emmett Given

NASA completes testing on 3-D printer

NASA photograph by Emmett Given United Space Alliance engineer Cynthia Azzarita, left, and Boeing Company engineer Chen Deng, members of the Human Factors Integration Team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, conduct a “...
 




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>