Atmospheric flight partnership with the Air Force Office of Scien-
tific Research, has helped establish a unique
mechanics aerodynamic characterization facility for MAV
research at the University of Florida Research.
Research in atmospheric flight mechanics con- The facility, located just outside Eglin AFB, Fla.,
tinued to bring advances in UAVs and micro air is the first of its kind specifically designed, con-
vehicles (MAVs) this year. For example, the structed, and instrumented for MAV research.
Boeing Phantom Works team at NASA Dryden These vehicles are typically 6-24 in. in size
continues the flight envelope expansion of the and fly at speeds ranging from 45 mph to zero
X-48B Blended Wing Body (BWB) prototype. (hover). The aerodynamic characterization fa-
With a 21-ft wingspan, this 500-lb remotely pi- cility can accommodate full-sized micro aerial
loted aircraft is designed to demonstrate the vi- vehicles and has the ability to rapidly change
ability of the BWB concept. wind speed. A key enabler for any future MAV
Twenty successful flights had been com- system is flight agility—the ability to maneuver
pleted as of July 25 in configurations for both in tight corners, avoid obstacles, and alleviate
low speed (11 flights with extended slats) and gusts. This facility will be able to replicate such
high speed (nine flights with retracted slats). conditions and enable researchers to analyze
Additional flights will aim for further expansion MAV performance to meet those goals.
of the envelope up to and beyond stall. This will In commercial aviation, the world awaits the
test a critical part of the flight control software first flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, sched-
that is designed to prevent the aircraft from de- uled as of this writing for 2009. Meanwhile, the
parting controlled flight.
The X-48B flight test re- The X-48B research aircraft banks smartly during this Block 2 flight.
search is a collaborative ef-
fort of Phantom Works,
NASA, and the Air Force Re-
search Laboratory (AFRL).
NASA and the Air Force are
interested in the aircraft’s
potential benefits, including
increased volume for pay-
load capacity and significant
reductions in both fuel
burn, due to the efficient
aerodynamics of the air-
frame, and noise, due to the
advanced propulsion inte-
In other autonomous ve-
hicle highlights, the Air
Force has a launch date
scheduled late this year for
the X-37B orbital test vehi-
cle. This 11,000-lb vehicle,
built by Boeing Phantom Works, will be first flight of the Boeing 777 freighter took place
launched on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape on July 14. Two airplanes will participate in the
Canaveral, Fla. Of particular interest to atmo- 270 hr of planned flight test activities. The
spheric flight mechanics, a primary objective of world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus
this first X-37B mission is to test the auton- A380, completed its 1,000th commercial flight
omous approach and landing schemes. Follow- for Singapore Airlines in August.
ing the launch, the reusable military spaceplane At Embraer, the past year has been a time to
will spend an unspecified but extended period focus on executive business jets. The four-pas-
in orbit before landing autonomously on the senger Phenom 100 made its first flight and fin-
space shuttle runway at Vandenberg AFB. Drop ished all major milestones from the flight test
tests of the vehicle were conducted using the campaign. The aircraft is now completing the
White Knight One carrier aircraft designed by certification flights. The larger, seven-passenger by David H. Klyde
Scaled Composites to launch SpaceShipOne. Phenom 300 also made its first flight, and an Kamal M. Shweyk
The AFRL Munitions Directorate, in close envelope expansion program is under way. Gregg L. Abate
AEROSPACE AMERICA/DECEMBER 2008 7