Tech

February 5, 2014

Dryden’s DROID demonstrates autonomous UAS-to-UAS air tow

With the 1/3-scale sailplane already in the air, the DROID tow plane rotates for takeoff from the dry lakebed, both controlled by their pilots with radio controllers in the background.

 
Engineers at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center chalked up another first for the center recently when they flew a scale-model sailplane that was towed aloft by one of NASA’s small Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drones – DROID for short.

The January flights of the two small unmanned aircraft were intended to validate systems and procedures and to reduce risk en route to a full-scale demonstration of the innovative Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept demonstration.

The flights marked the first time the DROID towed another aircraft into the air and the first autonomous towed flight ever at NASA Dryden.

The DROID and the glider were flown from the north end of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in both remotely controlled mode by pilots using standard model-airplane radio controllers and autonomously via a pre-programmed autopilot. Flight objectives included validation of the towing technique, tests of the tow release system and autopilot, transition from manual to autonomous flight and demonstration of the remote pilot’s ability to fly the glider from a ground-based cockpit using visual input transmitted from a miniature video camera on board the aircraft.

“The flights were primarily flown to evaluate the research pilots’ ability to control and position the glider under tow behind the DROID, and also to evaluate the performance of the flight avionics and video systems on the DROID and the single fuselage glider that enabled the piloting task,” said TGALC project manager Gerald “Jerry” Budd.

The 1/3-scale unmanned sailplane shows off its graceful high-aspect-ratio wing as it descends for landing during preliminary flight tests of the Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept.

The DROID flew nine flights during the tests, five of which towed the sailplane into the air. Budd said about 85 percent of the goals for the preliminary flight evaluation were accomplished.

Additional flights using the sub-scale conventional single-fuselage glider and lessons learned during the initial flights will pave the way for the next phase of the project, which will involve towing a custom-made twin-hulled sailplane model representative of the proposed TGALC configuration.

A long-time aerospace engineer who is currently a business development manager in NASA Dryden’s Advanced Planning and Partnerships Office, Budd initiated the concept of optimizing launch of small space satellites from a glider towed aloft by a powered aircraft as a much cheaper alternative to present-day launch methods. NASA Dryden’s Center Innovation Fund supports the small-scale project.
 

While operations engineer and Dryden model shop technician Red Jensen prepares to mount the canopy over the subscale sailplane’s avionics, model shop intern Derek Abramson prepares the DROID tow plane for the day’s UAS-to-UAS Air Tow demonstration.




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>