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Mon, Mar 05, 2012

AFRL Flight Research Vehicle Designated X-56A

UAV Will Be Used In Aircraft Configuration Research

The Air Force Research Laboratory was recently awarded an X-Plane designation for a vehicle that will be used to explore active control of lightweight, aerodynamically-efficient aircraft configurations. The X-56A is an innovative, modular, unmanned fight research vehicle that will allow investigation of active flutter suppression and gust load alleviation technology.

Flutter is an instability that can occur when unsteady aerodynamic loads acting on a wing couple with its natural vibration modes, often resulting in catastrophic failures. The research to be conducted with the X-56A is critical for the successful development of future slender, lightweight, high aspect ratio wing designs that could be used by energy efficient transport and unmanned aircraft.

The X-56A, also known as the Multi-Utility Technology Testbed (MUTT) flight demonstrator, is a product of the AFRL-led Multi-Utility Aeroelastic Demonstration (MAD) program. This program is a joint effort between AFRL's Air Vehicles Directorate, NASA Dryden and Lockheed Martin.

The X-56A is powered by twin JetCat P240 turbojets, has a 28-foot wing span, weighs 480 pounds, and is designed and constructed for easy wing replacement to enable testing of various flexible wing configurations. An additional hard point is being designed into the center of aft upper deck of the fuselage for mounting an additional third engine or a structural member to support testing of joined wing configurations. These characteristics will allow the testing of a wide range of advanced aerodynamic concepts. The X-56A will exhibit multiple rigid body and aeroelastic instabilities within its flight envelope, which will be actively managed by its flight control system.

The first X-56A flight is scheduled for summer 2012. Following Air Force flight testing, the X-56A will be used by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center for their continuing research into lightweight structures and advanced technologies for future low-emissions transport aircraft.



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