Advances in micro-UAS tech made via Army, Bell CRADA

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc company, researchers collaborated to advance development of a micro unmanned aerial system (UAS). The UAS is a miniature, lightweight reconnaissance vehicle that soldiers can carry onto the battlefield and deploy in a confined space.

The advancements stem from a previous five-year cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) signed in March 2018. "The CRADA lets us work together," says Dr. John Hrynuk, a mechanical engineer in ARL's Vehicle Technology Directorate. "We're trying to get data on the fundamental level, to build up a knowledge base of vehicles, because their expertise is in designing the vehicles, whereas our expertise is the fundamentals of them."

Bell engineers, Levi Hefner and Dakota Easley recently visited ARL to use its wind tunnel to perform experiments on the micro UAS. The visit was prompted by vehicle control challenges Bell researchers had observed in early flight testing. With the help of ARL scientists and equipment, Bell engineers were able to isolate their earlier challenges and improve the performance of the aerial vehicle.

"The wind tunnel here at ARL has been beneficial in providing data that explains why certain things are happening on the control side," Hefner says. "Now we're able to better analyze our tests to enhance the performance of our vehicles."

The joint effort to improve the UAS has been largely successful to date, officials say. The two parties worked effectively together by taking advantage of their respective strengths to manage different aspects of the development process. Hrynuk noted this is new way of doing business between ARL and Bell.

"This collaboration is great because we're heading into a new design space with these small vehicles," Hefner says. "ARL has the resources and expertise to help us out, and together we can build a better vehicle than either of us could build alone."

Dr. Jaret C. Riddick, VTD director, mentions the main mission of this collaboration is to combine the resources of both establishments to develop technologies to protect Soldiers.

"I am very excited about this collaboration with Bell, and to have Levi and Dakota working side-by-side with ARL researchers in our laboratories here at APG," Riddick says. "Partnering with industry early on in the discovery phase will allow us to accelerate the maturation and transition of exceptional outcomes from our basic and applied research objectives and will enable us to accelerate getting innovative technology into the hands of the warfighter faster."