PTERA System Identification
A technology gap exists between well-controlled wind tunnel tests that only examine aerodynamics and full-scale flight testing where most systems integration issues surface. The Prototype Technology Evaluation Research Aircraft (PTERA) is a highly reconfigurable unmanned flight research testbed
that bridges the gap between wind tunnel and manned flight testing with low-cost, low-risk, flight-based evaluation of high-risk technologies. PTERA allows for evaluation of numerous advanced aerodynamic configurations, research control laws, circulation control systems. Non-structural and replaceable leading/trailing edge flaps permit flight evaluation of various research high lift and drag reduction technologies. Any UAV autopilot and flight control computer can be integrated into the platform.
All PTERA data and models are open source and available to the entire flight research community. There are no publication restrictions on flight test results and no aircraft proprietary data.
Work to date: PTERA flew for the first time in July 2012, and the focus was on system testing, pilot familiarization, and initial performance measurements. In 2013, PTERA flew an additional six flights. Primary focus was on system identification to develop aero models and to evaluate stall characteristics. Tao sensors were also flown on these flights as part of a NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Seedling Fund research effort.
Looking ahead: A PTERA aircraft will arrive at Armstrong in fall 2014. Several flight research experiments have already been identified.
Partner: Area-I, Inc., developed the PTERA testbed under the NASA SBIR program. Other partners include the State of
Georgia, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Middle Georgia State College, Solid Concepts, and Aeroprobe Corporation.
Armstrong's Research and Engineering Directorate is responsible for the overall engineering content of flight research projects. Our engineers provide technical expertise in aerodynamics; guidance, navigation, and control; propulsion; static and dynamic structures; flight hardware and software; flight and ground test instrumentation and data systems; and system engineering and integration. They apply their expertise across the spectrum of Armstrong's many activities and also support the development and continual evolution of engineering tools and test techniques. Here are highlights from a few recent and particularly notable engineering success stories.