With the graceful flight of hawks and eagles in mind, NASA aerospace engineer Michael Allen recently hand-launched a 15-pound motorized model sailplane over the Southern California desert. He was hoping it would catch plumes of rising air called thermals.
The sailplane did just that several times without human intervention during a series of research flights at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Calif.
The tests validated Allen's premise that using thermal lift could significantly extend the range and flight endurance of small unmanned air vehicles.
Thermal lift increases vehicle endurance and saves fuel. This is significant, as small vehicle flight duration is often restricted by limited fuel capacity.
Allen and his team of engineers and technicians flew the remote-controlled RnR Products sailplane 17 times from July through mid-September. The sailplane was modified by Dryden aerospace technicians to incorporate a small electric motor and an autopilot programmed to detect thermals.
The 14-foot-wingspan model flew to an altitude of about 1,000 feet. The ground-based remote control pilot then handed off control to the sailplane's onboard autopilot.
The autopilot software flew the plane on a pre-determined course over the northern portion of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., until it detected an updraft. As the aircraft rose with the updraft, the engine automatically shut off. The aircraft circled to stay within the lift from the updraft.
Allen said the small sailplane added 60 minutes to its endurance by autonomous thermal soaring. The modified sailplane gained an average altitude in 23 updrafts of 565 feet, and in one strong thermal ascended 2,770 feet.
"The flights demonstrated a small unmanned vehicle can mimic birds and exploit the free energy that exists in the atmosphere," Allen said. "We have been able to gather useful and unique data on updrafts and the response of the aircraft in updrafts. This will further the technology and refine the algorithms used."
Small, portable, unpiloted, long-endurance vehicles could fulfill a number of observation roles including forest fire monitoring, traffic control, search and rescue.
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
Cyber Defense Systems Signs LOI And Reseller Agreement With V-TOL Aerospace
St. Petersburg FL (SPX) Oct 05, 2005
Cyber Defense Systems has announced it has signed a letter of intent and reseller agreement with V-TOL as the two companies will look to enhance each other in the global marketplace.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|