New Research Could Help Army Drones Change Shape Mid-Flight
Researchers in the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory are working to develop a drone with the ability to morph while in flight to better fit its mission — for example, shortening and lengthening the wing for efficiency and speed. Texas A&M University researchers are assisting with the complex analysis and design stage.
To fix this, Hartl and his team developed an algorithm that substantially cuts down the computational cost by simultaneously running analyses for various pressures and structure shapes, and then using mathematical tools to stitch together two matching solutions.
The ability to map the intersections of various pressure and structure points grants researchers the ability to design, redesign and morph their structures as they please without needing to constantly run additional analyses — cutting down the time it takes to produce this new design from days to a few runs. Hartl said the concept is exciting.
“I know that, up until this point, we’ve basically been unable to do serious design studies on morphing aircrafts because of this computational expense problem,” Hartl said. “Frankly, this is one reason why there’s not a lot of morphing airplane solutions. The only way to have done this in the past was to design, build and test. And one primary problem with structures that can move is that wrong answers quickly lead to catastrophic failures.”
The team is comprised of collaborators from the U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory and Texas A&M.
“This is an example of the potential of having Army Futures Command and the Army Research Laboratory integrated with Texas A&M,” Hartl said. “This algorithm and idea are only a couple years old, and their team was able to harvest it and use it because they were here. They were the first ones to hear and see about this new way of solving a problem and immediately began applying it to their work.”