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.


 
 

 

Headlines January 23, 2015

News: Two Marines identified in deadly California helo crash - Two Marine Corps officers killed when their helicopter crashed during a training exercise in the Southern California desert were remembered Jan. 25 as talented pilots. Greek F-16 crashes in Spain during NATO exercise - Ten people died Jan. 26 after a Greek air force F-16 jet crashed...
 
 

News Briefs January 26, 2015

Navy wants to increase use of sonar-emitting buoys The U.S. Navy is seeking permits to expand sonar and other training exercises off the Pacific Coast, a proposal raising concerns from animal advocates who say that more sonar-emitting buoys would harm whales. The Navy now wants to deploy up to 720 sonobuoys about 12 miles off...
 
 
Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards

ANG conducts air refueling training with NATO allies in Germany

Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards A NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft approaches a Utah Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker for air refueling during a training flight over Germany on Jan. 13, 2015. Nearly 30 airme...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales

Ramstein Airmen train with French air force

Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales Two U.S. Air Force pilots and a French air force navigator discuss the route to the drop zone during a simulated low-level drop Jan. 21, 2015, at Orleans – Bricy Air...
 
 

Marines receive first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant

The first F-35C Lightning II, carrier variant, for the U.S. Marine Corps touched-down on the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 13, from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to begin training in support of carrier-based operations. U.S. Marine Lt. Col. J.T. Ryan, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 detachment commander...
 
 

VA announces single regional framework under MyVA initiative

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Jan. 26 that it is taking the first steps under the MyVA initiative to realign its many organizational maps into one map with five regions to better serve Veterans. The new regions under the MyVA alignment will allow VA to begin the process of integrating disparate organizational boundaries into...
 




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>