The PTERA will enable NASA to more effectively develop and evaluate the performance of innovative solutions and advanced technologies that improve current and future air transportation by extending the NASA research portfolio to include a low-cost, low-risk flight experiment testbed. Virtually every program within the NASA ARMD can directly or indirectly benefit from the PTERA as it provides the following: -A low-cost, low-risk high quality flight test facility. -A platform that enables testing and evaluations of new technologies that, due to cost and risk, would typically be reserved for wind tunnel tests only. -A platform to investigate the flight performance of technologies such as laminar flow enablers, aeroelastic tailoring, morphing control surfaces/wings, and active flow control. Additionally, the baseline PTERA tooling could be used to enable the fabrication of more exotic designs such a box/joined-wing configuration. -A testbed with which to perform experiments regarding sense and avoid, UAS-manned aircraft interactions, etc. -A platform to perform loss-of-control flight research and to evaluate health management and atmospheric hazard sensing systems under actual flight conditions.
A technology gap exists between well-controlled wind tunnel tests and full scale flight testing where most of the systems integration issues surface. Allocating these system integration activities to a full scale flight test is replete with safety, schedule and performance risks that dominate flight test costs. The PTERA platform serves as the bridge to integrate and flight test advanced aerodynamic treatments, health management and control systems, and to perform experiments in structures and aero elasticity for a fraction of the cost of a manned flight test program. The PTERA flight test facility offers several distinct advantages to NASA, and non-NASA customers. The physical configuration is representative of most commercial/transport aircraft, therefore test data will be considered relevant. The PTERA structure is solid, well designed and stable therefore the test data will be free of unwanted variables that may contaminate the data and the airframe was designed from the bottom up to be modular and general purpose which will meet the "common benefit" need that a lab asset must generally satisfy. Finally, PTERA has enough design margin to accommodate multiple treatments such as wings with active twist and active camber, advanced control systems, and prototype "UAV in the NAS" automated airspace separation related payloads.