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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Prototype-Technology Evaluator and Research Aircraft

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Prototype-Technology Evaluator and Research Aircraft Project Image

The Area-I team has developed and flight tested the unmanned Prototype-Technology Evaluation and Research Aircraft or PTERA ("ptera" being Greek for wing, or wing-like). The PTERA flew successfully during Phase I of this program, and stands to enhance the already capable NASA Aeronautics Test Program (ATP) by enabling the low-cost, low-risk, flight-based evaluation of everything from advanced aerodynamic treatments to control systems and sensor payloads. The PTERA will bridge the gap between wind tunnel testing and manned flight testing to greatly reduce technology development time, cost, and risk. This work seeks to further mature the PTERA system through rigorous flight testing and will begin the integration of the PTERA into the NASA ATP through the delivery of a new PTERA baseline system to NASA. Several core capabilities that the PTERA would bring to the ATP include: 1) A low-cost, low-risk flight test facility that can be used to expand ATP's role in the testing and validation of NASA's physics-based multi-disciplinary analysis and optimization (MDAO) tools 2) The ability to flight test advanced aerodynamic treatments, health management and control systems, and to perform experiments in structures and aeroelasticity for a fraction of the cost of a manned flight test program. 3) The ability to flight test cutting-edge and complex systems whose cost and risk are too high for manned flights. 4) A testbed with modular airframe that enables the evaluation of multiple technologies with the same airframe. 5) A testbed with a large payload capacity that facilitates the inexpensive and risk-mitigating flight test evaluation of a wide array of sensors and payloads as well as the evaluation of flight-test measurement systems before they transition to manned programs. 6) The ability to perform unmanned, autonomous, flight experiments relating to the burgeoning field of autonomous unmanned aircraft, including experiments supporting UAS integration into the NAS.

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