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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Dynamically Scaled Modular Aircraft for Flight-Based Aviation Safety Research

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Dynamically Scaled Modular Aircraft for Flight-Based Aviation Safety Research
Area-I, Incorporated personnel have led the design, fabrication, and flight testing of twelve unmanned aircraft and one manned aircraft. Partnered with NASA and Boeing, Area-I has developed the unmanned Prototype-Technology Evaluator and Research Aircraft or PTERA ("ptera" being Greek for wing/wing-like). The PTERA, a high-quality flight research testbed, bridges the gap between wind tunnel and manned flight testing with low-cost, low-risk flight-based evaluation of high-risk technologies. In Phase I, the PTERA was enhanced by integrating modularity and design flexibility and culminated in the design of a representative 16%-scale CRJ-700, named the PTERA-RJM for Regional Jet Model. For Phase II, the team proposes to finalize the design, fabricate, and deliver a 17ft, 278lb PTERA-RJM that is tailored for use within NASA's Aviation Safety Program to enable experiments in vehicle health monitoring, in loss of control prevention, mitigation, and recovery, in atmospheric hazard sensing and mitigation, etc. The Boeing Company supports the proposed work, as they have great interest in the PTERA platform given its following core capabilities: 1) A large, low-cost airframe that minimizes scaling and Reynolds number effects, yet is easily disassembled and transported 2) A modular, reconfigurable fuselage design that enables the fabrication and assembly of fuselage configurations that maintain near geometric similitude with a wide array of "tube-and-wing" aircraft using existing tooling 3) Modular wing design that facilitates the integration of advanced aerodynamic treatments, split control surfaces, and aeroelastic and damage emulation mechanisms 4) Integrated ballast system and movable payload/avionics racks to enable the tuning of mass/inertial properties 5) Large payload capacity, voluminous payload bays, and large clamshell doors that facilitate the integration of avionics systems and provide access during flight testing More »

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