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.


 
 

 

Headlines July 31, 2015

News: Carter: Military leaders could arm more troops at home – Following the recent fatal shooting of four Marines and a sailor in Tennessee, Defense Secretary Ash Carter is ordering the military services to consider new policies that would enhance security for troops at home, including potentially arming more personnel.   Business: DOD weighs supplier base,...
 
 

News Briefs July 31, 2015

U.S. delivering eight newer F-16 warplanes to Egypt The United States Embassy in Cairo says the U.S. is delivering eight newer F-16 warplanes to Egypt as part of an ongoing military support package. It says in a July 30 statement that the aircraft, of the current Block 52 production variant, will be flown in from...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Lockheed Martin successfully tests design changes for Orion spacecraft’s fairing separation system

Lockheed Martin photograph A protective panel for Orion’s service module is jettisoned during testing at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California facility. This test series evaluated design changes to the spacecraft’s fair...
 

 

Australian company to provide parts for initial production of Triton UAS

Northrop Grumman has awarded the first Australian supplier contract for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system initial production lot to Ferra Engineering. Brisbane-based Ferra Engineering will manufacture mechanical sub-assemblies for the first four Triton air vehicles including structural components. “At Northrop Grumman it’s very important to not only develop...
 
 
Boeing photograph

CH-46 ‘Phrog’ makes its last hop

Boeing photograph The CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter commonly known as the “Phrog,” is set to retire and to be flown one last time by Reserve Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 774 on Aug. 1. The CH-46 Sea Knight is a med...
 
 

Insitu awarded LRIP Lot IV RQ-21A Blackjack Systems contract

Under the terms of its latest contract, Insitu will build six RQ-21A Blackjack systems for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The $78-million Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Lot IV Low Rate Initial Production contract is the latest event in the program’s progression toward the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation phase.   “This award will...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>