The proposed program seeks to mature aerodynamic, aero-acoustic and performance modeling of e-VTOL vehicles during the transition phase of flight through the empirical testing of ESAero’s Scalable Modular Aerial Research Testbed (SMART) aircraft. The SMART aircraft is a subscale vertical take-off and landing (e-VTOL) vehicle designed with unique demonstrated capabilities (NASA SBIR Phase II 80NSSC19C0094) to represent multiple different UAM configurations, perform dynamic flight test maneuvers and collect data collection for system identification. During this Phase I effort ESAero, in partnership with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo(RI), will develop the detailed flight test plan, generate expected aerodynamic and acoustic flight test results, and asses the current propulsion and instrumentation systems and develop system upgrades for the SMART vehicle as necessary. These actions will provide the necessary technical inputs to then execute the flight test plan safely during a phase II effort. In Phase I ESAero will also coordinate with the FAA to put in place a part 107 waiver to execute the free flight transition testing in phase II as well.
This effort will allow ESAero to develop a testing capability that will provide a step change in data accessibility for NASA and the wider transportation community. In recent years the development of eVTOL vehicles has observed a ramp-up of initiatives driven by start-up companies that are focused on developing and maturing a proprietary commercial product or service. However, the developments of eVTOL technology bring a series of engineering challenges that must be well understood by regulatory, safety, and government planning agencies at all levels before eVTOLs significantly impact transportation systems. The proposed program will support this transformation by planning for (Phase I) and testing transition phase flight maneuvers (Phase II) with a scalable reconfigurable vehicle designed specifically for eVTOL flight testing.
The Phase I effort will make a leap forward toward non-proprietary data validation datasets and a technology testbed for investigating the critical transition phase of flight aiming to serve NASA research teams. The SMART vehicle will provide the AAM National Campaign with an alternative developmental flight test provider and another vehicle provider with the unique aspect of being non-proprietary allowing for increased information exchange and collaboration. Being scalable, non-proprietary, and designed for test will drive demand within NASA.
ESAero will leverage the increased maturity of SMART developed under this effort to provide a scalable validation vehicle for customers beyond NASA to further push the demonstration and validation of eVTOL technologies. Specific applications include the development of Individual Blade Control rotor technology on the SMART platform funded under the DoD’s AFWERX program (Phase I: FA864921P0168)