NASA Armstrong’s X-56 UAV suffers problem during early morning flight test

On July 9, shortly after 7:30 a.m., the X-56B remotely piloted experimental aircraft experienced an anomaly after takeoff from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.

There are no casualties. The investigation is underway and further details will be provided when available.

The remotely piloted X-56A Multi-Utility Technology Testbed was developed by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force Research Laboratory to test active aeroelastic control technologies for flutter suppression and gust-load alleviation on flexible wing structures. NASA Armstrong is conducting follow-on testing with the X-56A to support research on lightweight structures and advanced control technologies for future efficient, environmentally friendly transport aircraft.

The goal of the X-56A project is to advance aeroservoelastic technology through flight research using a low-cost, modular, remotely piloted aircraft. The aircraft is being tested using flight profiles where flutter occurs in order to demonstrate that onboard instrumentation can not only accurately predict and sense the onset of wing flutter, but also be used by the control system to actively suppress aeroelastic instabilities.

Applied to future designs, such technologies will enable construction of longer, lighter, more flexible wings for a variety of crewed and remotely piloted aircraft. NASA engineers will explore issues related to active flutter suppression by adjusting software programs in the X-56A aircraft’s flight control computer. Researchers also expect to learn how to better ease gust loads, which will make flexible airplanes safer during encounters with in-flight turbulence. Several key goals include:

* Maturation of flutter-suppression technologies
* Reduction of structural weight to improve fuel efficiency and range
* Increase aspect ratio by 30 to 40 percent to reduce aerodynamic drag
* Promote improved long-term structural integrity by reducing gust loads

Designing the next generation of aerospace vehicles will pose serious challenges in modeling, predicting, and controlling potentially destructive aeroservoelastic dynamics and finding ways to exploit efficiency gains from lighter, more flexible structures.

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