US develops testbed to support designing future tiltrotor aircraft

8 December 2020 (Last Updated December 8th, 2020 16:13)

A team of US Army researchers and industry partners has constructed a testbed that will help in a larger programme of designing a stable tiltrotor aircraft.

US develops testbed to support designing future tiltrotor aircraft
The TiltRotor Aeroelastic Stability Testbed, located at the Nasa Langley Transonic Dynamic Tunnel, enables researchers to study the behavior of whirl flutter experienced by tiltrotors. Credit: Harlen Capen, Nasa.

A team of US Army researchers and industry partners has constructed a testbed that will help in a larger programme of designing a stable tiltrotor aircraft.

The researchers will use the TiltRotor Aeroelastic Stability Testbed (TRAST) in a massive wind tunnel at the Nasa Langley Research Center to assess the effectiveness of modern tiltrotor stability models.

This comes as the US seeks to develop a tiltrotor aircraft for future operational requirements.

Such aircraft can hover in the air and travel in great speeds, combining the advantages of a helicopter and an aircraft.

However, the tiltrotors face severe stability issues as it is designed with heavy engines with large rotors on the end of the wings, a feature that generates strong aerodynamic forces called whirl flutter.

This phenomenon shakes the airframe structure violently and can even cause aircraft failure.

The TRAST will help the researchers in developing new analysis software that can help in exploring different design possibilities of tiltrotor aircraft.

The US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) aerospace engineer Andrew Kreshock said: “This research effort is to gain confidence in Future Vertical Lift vehicles that are aimed at a tiltrotor configuration.

“Since future vehicles are being developed without wind tunnel testing, this puts more pressure for accurate stability predictions.”

Current tiltrotors such as the V-22 Osprey addresses whirl flutter using reinforced airframes and thick airfoils. However, this significantly increases the weight of the aircraft.

The research team published its paper in the Vertical Flight Society 76th Annual Forum Proceedings.