Prototype-Technology Evaluator and Research Aircraft (PTERA) Flight Test Assessment
The Area-I team has developed and fabricated the unmanned Prototype-Technology Evaluation and Research Aircraft or PTERA ("ptera" being Greek for wing, or wing-like). The PTERA is an extremely versatile and high-quality, yet inexpensive flight research testbed that serves as a bridge between wind tunnel and manned flight testing by enabling the low-cost, low-risk flight-based evaluation of a wide array of high-risk technologies. For this work, the team proposes a flight test evaluation of the PTERA platform to assess its effectiveness as a research test bed aircraft within NASA's Aeronautical Test Program (ATP). The PTERA stands to enhance the already capable ATP by enabling the low-cost, low-risk flight-based evaluation of everything from advanced aerodynamic treatments to sensor payloads. Several core capabilities that the PTERA would bring to the ATP:1) A low-cost, low-risk flight test facility that can be used to expand ATP's role in the testing and validation of NASA's physics-based multi-disciplinary analysis and optimization (MDAO) tools2) The ability to flight test advanced aerodynamic treatments, health management and control systems, and to perform experiments in structures and aeroelasticity for a fraction of the cost of a manned flight test program3) The ability to flight test cutting-edge and complex systems whose cost and risk are too high for manned flights4) A testbed with modular airframe, enabling the evaluation of multiple technologies with the same airframe5) A testbed with a large payload capacity that facilitates the inexpensive and risk-mitigating flight test evaluation of a wide array of sensors and payloads as well as the evaluation of flight-test measurement systems before they transition to manned programs6) The ability to perform unmanned, autonomous, flight experiments relating to the burgeoning field of autonomous unmanned aircraft, including experiments supporting UAS integration in to the NAS, sense and avoid, etc.
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