NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 A2.05-9072
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Aerodynamics
PROPOSAL TITLE: Morphing Control Surface for Improved Efficiency and Maneuverability

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Techno-Sciences, Inc.
11750 Beltsville Drive, Suite 300
Beltsville, MD 20705 - 3194
(240) 790-0600

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Kothera Curt
11750 Beltsville Drive, Suite 300
Beltsville, MD 20705 - 0600
(240) 790-0600

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
The current technology push in advanced aerospace flight systems is to replicate certain features seen in nature. Morphing aircraft, particularly unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), have thus received considerable attention in this respect. Aside from safety and aerodynamic efficiency, a single morphing UAV platform could possess the ability to carry out multiple mission objectives. Nearly all forms of conformal morphing vehicles have since been investigated, including twist, camber, span, and sweep, where simulation results showed the potential performance benefits that could be achieved. It was not until recently that material and actuator technology had reached a point of development that allowed viable prototypes to be fabricated and tested, however. Having successfully researched, designed, and evaluated supporting technologies, Techno-Sciences, Inc. proposes to develop an innovative morphing control surface system that is capable of in-plane (span extension) reconfiguration, sized and scaled for a candidate subsonic fixed-wing UAV platform. This morphing system will make use of high performance, light weight actuators to articulate the shape change, a morphing core to provide structural support, and a flexible skin as a viable aerodynamic surface layer. All components are custom-made in-house from COTS elements and have patents pending. The proposed research plan will work to design the morphing system to fit inside the volumetric constraints of the host vehicle with the goal of increasing efficiency and maneuverability. The Phase I program will end with prototype evaluations of a morphing wing section under representative loading. Successful demonstration here will lead to integration with the UAV and a flight test in Phase II.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Throughout the Phase I effort, Techno-Sciences, Inc. will work in concert with NASA sponsors to ensure that the proposed morphing control surface technology can be seamlessly integrated with an existing and possible future unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). These include standard runway take-off vehicles, catapult launched vehicles, and vertical take-off vehicles. Typical UAV mission objectives include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), search and rescue (SAR) operations, and payload delivery, in addition to collecting meteorological and atmospheric measurements. Aside from UAVs, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) also stand to benefit from this development. Not related to vehicle technology, but another possible application area is that of deployable systems, where the honeycomb-like core could be contracted during stowage and expanded to deploy a payload, while also serving as a stabilizing and controllable frame. To facilitate technology transfer, we will work in Phase I to address top-level hardware and software integration issues from a systems engineering perspective. Issues such as control electronics, software architectures, hardware interfaces, manufacturability, ruggedness, and reliability will be considered in Phase I and implemented in Phase II of the program.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The morphing control surface system for improved flight performance characteristics will be applicable to a wide range of end-users in the defense, commercial, and industry sectors. Its broad applicability is enabled by the custom-fabricated components. More efficient control surfaces featuring chord/span extension and contraction and camber change are particularly attractive to the military. Increased efficiency allows for longer missions to take place, whether they be mapping of unexploded ordnance, monitoring of assets, or other ISR-related tasks. Other applications include supporting mine detection, biochemical weapons cleanup, and operations in other hazardous environments or rough terrain. Additionally, research in biomimetics and reconfigurable dwellings are other opportunities for application. It should be emphasized that while the proposed development focuses on a small UAV, the enabling technologies are scalable to larger craft using established design laws and material selection criteria. Overall, the proposed technology will be an integrated hardware/software product that can be licensed for manufacture. Techno-Sciences, Inc. already enjoys market share of related technologies through our existing customers, and we plan to leverage these marketing outlets and offer custom-design morphing control surface systems.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Controls-Structures Interaction (CSI)

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