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 by David Alexander

NASA MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft completes visual, radar mission in Hawaii

NASA photograph “Ikhana,” NASA’s MQ-9 remotely piloted research aircraft, carries a maritime radar in a specialized centerline pod during a flight to check out systems prior to the aircraft’s deployment ...
 
 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

NASA Armstrong’s space shuttle Mate-Demate Device coming down

NASA photograph by Tom Tschida The space shuttle Mate-Demate Device that stood as an iconic symbol of NASA’s now-concluded Space Shuttle Program at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center for 38 years is being dismantled af...
 
 

NASA awards research facilities, engineering support services contract

NASA has awarded a contract for research facilities and engineering support services to InuTeq, LLC of Greenbelt, Maryland, in support of the Mission Information and Test Systems Directorate at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. This cost-plus-award-fee contract covers a one-year base period beginning Nov. 1, 2014 and four one-year options, and is valued...
 

 

NASA picks top Earth data challenge ideas, opens call for climate apps

NASA has selected four ideas from the public for innovative uses of climate projections and Earth-observing satellite data. The agency also has announced a follow-on challenge with awards of $50,000 to build climate applications based on OpenNEX data on the Amazon cloud computing platform. Both challenges use the Open NASA Earth Exchange, or OpenNEX, a...
 
 
nasa-flying-lab

NASA’s flying laboratories study our world

Throughout the remainder of 2014, NASA is flying a series of airborne research campaigns from the North Pole to the South Pole and many points in between ñ to take a closer look at U.S. air quality, hurricanes in the Atlantic ...
 
 

NASA selects proposals to increase STEM education at community, technical colleges

NASA’s Office of Education will award more than $17.3 million through the National Space Grant and Fellowship Program to increase student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at community colleges and technical schools across the United States. Each award has a two-year performance period and a maximum value of $500,000. The 35...
 




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>