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November 18, 2005 - Rolling Hills Research Corporation has been selected by NASA for two Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contracts.  NASA has selected 335 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I proposals for contract negotiations from a pool of over 2,400 submissions. The SBIR contracts will be awarded to 251 small high technology firms in 34 states.


Under the first research program, a robust flow control method promising significantly increased performance and virtual shape control for natural laminar flow (NLF) sections was proposed. Significant aerodynamic, systems, and control benefits are possible through the integration of virtual aerodynamic shaping technology into modern aircraft. Virtual aerodynamic shaping involves using flow control technology to manipulate the flow field to achieve a desired result regardless of the geometry. A high-payoff approach to significantly increased air vehicle performance is virtual shaping of extended run natural laminar flow sections. The objective of this research is to incorporate a robust and simple flow control system that requires no external power to design and virtually shape an extended natural laminar flow section offering radical performance enhancement in the form of increased lift-to-drag and maximum lift. Additionally, the system will produce a wing design enabling a hinge-less, full-span virtual shaping capability which can be used for fully pilot reactive roll control, span load tailoring, and gust load alleviation. The system will provide significantly enhanced performance for the air vehicle throughout the entire flight envelope.


The second research program seeks to aid in the development of Micro unmanned air vehicles (MAVs) and Mars aircraft. Unlike conventional aircraft, MAVs and Mars aircraft suffer from operation in an extremely low Reynolds number flight regime. Generally, a low Reynolds number is considered to be between 150,000 and 500,000. Both MAVs and Mars aircraft, however, can have operational Reynolds number regimes from 20,000 to 120,000. At these extremely low Reynolds numbers, the aerodynamic flow features are dominated by laminar separation and separation bubble effects, which are highly unstable and very dependent upon the free-stream conditions and atmospheric turbulence. Although it is often argued that an exploratory vehicle will operate over a benign portion of the flight envelope, an encounter with strong winds or gusts, particularly during a maneuver, could excite a highly non-linear response. This means that the assumption of linear derivatives for stability and control may not be valid, which could cause the loss of a vehicle designed with a control system based on linear assumptions. This research program will develop a low-cost, integrated ground test, simulation, and flight control development environment to address these challenges.  The ground test element will utilize RHRC's advanced research water tunnel system, which allows force and moment measurement of static and dynamic aerodynamics at full-scale flight Reynolds numbers for MAV class aircraft.


RHRC's Chief Aerodynamicist, Dr. Michael Kerho, will be the Principal Investigator for these research programs.



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