MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (Aug. 9, 2021) — A continuing partnership between the U.S. Army, Navy and NASA is ensuring the next generation of aviation scientists and engineers are effectively trained to develop, evaluate, demonstrate and test advanced vertical lift technologies.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, Office of Naval Research and NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate selected three multi-university teams as Vertical Lift Research Centers of Excellence.
The multi-university teams include faculty researchers and students from institutions across the United States. The Georgia Institute of Technology-led VLRCOE team includes the University of Michigan, Washington University at St. Louis, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Ohio State University, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Pennsylvania State University-led VLRCOE team is partnering with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the University of California, Davis; Auburn University and the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State. The University of Maryland VLRCOE has teamed up with the United States Naval Academy, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.
“I am excited to see the program getting revitalized with infusion of new faculty and new partner universities, said Dr. Mahendra Bhagwat, AvMC Senior Research Scientist, Airvehicle Aerodynamics & Preliminary Design. “The reenergized VLRCOE Centers will be crucial to attract the right talent and forging them into the future workforce needed to support the Future Vertical Lift program as well as the growing civil aviation industry fueled by innovations.”
The VLRCOE program combines innovative basic research and graduation education, with collaborations across government, industry and academia, to effectively train the next generation of aviation scientists and engineers.
The tasks in the vertical lift research centers span several areas including aeromechanics; structures and materials; flight dynamics and control; advanced vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) concepts and designs; vibration and noise control; propulsion; affordability; safety and survivability; and human factors engineering.
Made possible thanks to joint funding by the Army, Navy and NASA, the Army will provide the majority of the funds, with the Navy contributing $5 million and NASA $3 million, over the five-year cooperative agreements, which will be administered by the Army Contracting Command located at Fort Eustis, Virginia. The VLRCOE program has been jointly funded by the Army, Navy and NASA continuously since 2011 to further foundational sciences in vertical lift technology areas of long-term mutual interests.
“NASA and our military partners have invested and committed to vertical lift research and education for another five years to train the next generation of vertical lift engineers,” said Susan Gorton, manager of NASA’s Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology project.
“The Office of Naval Research remains committed to developing the next generation of highly-skilled scientists and engineers to augment the vertical lift workforce,” said ONR Program Officer David Gonzalez. “By collaborating with the U.S. Army and NASA, we can collectively tackle the challenges we all face in developing critical technologies for vertical lift platforms.”
For more than four decades the Army has continuously supported a Centers of Excellence program focused on vertical lift science and technology. The original Center for Education and Research in Rotary Wing Aviation Technology (CERWAT) was initiated in 1982 to increase academia’s contribution to the vertical lift technology by combining graduate education and multi-disciplinary university research. Over the past five years about 80 PhD students and about 120 masters students graduated from the VLRCOE program.
“With the Army maturing two new aircrafts into operational capabilities and the civil aviation industry charting new territory with electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, there is steep demand for these highly skilled future scientists and engineers,” added Bhagwat. “This next evolution of the VLRCOE program will be a key talent pipeline needed to sustain rapidly growing VTOL aviation industry.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.