Space

July 9, 2014

NASA announces winners of challenge to design hurricane-tracking unmanned aerial systems

Taking second place, the team at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., designed the OQ451-5 Trident, a hydrogen-powered UAS capable of seven days of uninterrupted flight.

 
NASA has selected three winning designs solicited to address the technological limitations of the unmanned aerial systems currently used to track and collect data on hurricanes.

Engineering teams at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville were named first- through third-place winners, respectively, of the agency’s 2013-2014 University Aeronautics Engineering Design Challenge.

This year’s challenge called on university students, with faculty advisors, to design a new UAS that can exceed the flight limitations of systems currently used to track and gather data on hurricanes throughout the Atlantic Ocean storm season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30.

“The data gathered by UAS’s is crucial to refining computer models so we can better predict not just the path of these storms, but also the process of hurricane formation and growth,” explained Craig Nickol, a NASA aerospace engineer and technical lead for the contest at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “This is where current systems fall short.”

Accurate predictions of storm formation and growth require several days of uninterrupted observations and measurements. However, systems now in use to gather storm data, similar to the Global Hawk UAS, have a limited flight endurance of 24 hours per takeoff. Among other stringent criteria, papers submitted for the challenge had to successfully demonstrate how the team’s system design would provide persistent five-month aerial coverage over an area of the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa where tropical depressions can form into hurricanes. Through this five-month period, systems must be capable of flying non-stop a minimum of seven days.

A team of students from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg captured first place in NASA’s University Aeronautics Design Challenge with its proposal for the “Gobble Hawk” high-altitude, long-endurance uncrewed aerial system for tracking and collecting data on hurricanes.

“The decision process and supporting detail, including cost optimization, were strengths of the top papers,” said aerospace engineer Jason Welstead, a contest reviewer for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington.

Virginia Tech’s team of nine university seniors won first place with its Gobble Hawk, an aerial system consisting of two aircraft, each with a flight endurance of 7.8 days and using liquid hydrogen as a fuel source. The team estimated the total cost of the system at $199.5 million for production plus 10 years of operation and maintenance.

Taking second place, Purdue’s OQ451-5 Trident is a hydrogen-powered UAS capable of seven days of uninterrupted flight over the monitoring area. Its approximate costs include $310 million for design, $78 million for production and operating costs of about $17,000 per flight hour.

UVA captured third place with its submission, an aircraft dubbed The Big WAHOO – a hat-tip to the school’s unofficial nickname and also an acronym for Worldwide Autonomous Hurricane and Oceanic Observer – has a flight endurance of 7.5 days. The team estimated the operating life of the aircraft to be 15 years, with a total lifecycle cost of about $493.7 million.

For more than a decade, NASA’s unique University Aeronautics Engineering Design Challenge has inspired senior-level engineering students to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions to real problems faced by the global aeronautics community. Eight university teams submitted final entries for the 2014 challenge. The three winning teams will receive a cash award through an education grant and cooperative agreement with Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.
 

The team at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville secured third place with its submission, an aircraft dubbed The Big WAHOO, which has a flight endurance of 7.5 days.




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


 
 

 
Navy photograph

NAWCWD manned for unmanned systems

Navy photograph A rail launch is performed during Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle testing at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake, Calif. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division scientists, engineers, techn...
 
 
NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich

NASA employees go ‘above and beyond’

Courtesy photograph NASA Chief Scientist Albion Bowers, Christopher Miller and Nelson Brown receive the Exception Engineering Achievement Medal at Armstrong Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The prestigious award ...
 
 
Photograph by Tom Reynolds

Engineers, test pilots enjoy Mojave tradition

Photograph by Tom Reynolds Engineer and pilot students who recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School from Patuxent River, Md., and the USAF Test Pilot school at Edwards AFB kept with a 17 year old tradition, enjo...
 

 
nasa-global-hawk

Global Hawk 872 return marks 100th NASA flight

  NASA Global Hawk No. 872 is pictured on the ramp after landing at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va., at sunrise following its 10th and final science flight Sept. 28–29 in the agency’s 2014 Hurricane and S...
 
 

Northrop Grumman hand held precision targeting device completes successful developmental test

A new hand held targeting system developed by Northrop Grumman that will enable soldiers to engage targets with precision munitions while providing digital connectivity to related military units has successfully completed developmental testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The evaluation of the company’s Hand Held Precision Targeting Device, or HHPTD, was conducted...
 
 
Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

Educating future workers

Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds Antelope Valley College physics professor Christos Valiotis and assistant headmaster at the Palmdale Aerospace Academy, Matthew Winheim, speak at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade Luncheon. The ...
 




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>