Researchers create state-of-the-art test stand for Future Vertical Lift testing

By Katie Davis Skelley, DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center Public AffairsApril 2, 2024

Researchers in the Technology Development Directorate at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center have created a state-of-the-art test stand for use in the NASA Langley Research Center 14- by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel.
Researchers in the Technology Development Directorate at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center have created a state-of-the-art test stand for use in the NASA Langley Research Center 14- by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel. (Photo Credit: Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (April 2, 2024) – When you are building the future of Army aviation, it is not enough to create revolutionary aviation technology. Sometimes you must also invent the infrastructure to make that technology happen.

This is what researchers in the Technology Development Directorate at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center did in the NASA Langley Research Center 14- by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel. While NASA and the Army have been longtime partners in testing Army rotorcraft, the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program necessitated a state-of-the-art test stand be developed for testing in the NASA tunnel.

Simply put, a test stand from the 1970’s was not going to cut it for the Army of 2040.

“FVL is putting out all these requirements for new helicopters and they all have overarching requirements: generally, we want to go faster, farther and we want to be more efficient,” said Austin Overmeyer, project lead. “That's for the production vehicles, the ones that the Army is flying and will be flying. The General Rotor Model System test stand that we were using was built in the 1970’s and it was scaled to meet the requirements of full-scale concepts of the day, which used 1970’s engine technology. There have been a lot of incremental improvements to the test stand, but they were just that - incremental improvements.

“We were getting to the point where it was costing us a lot of money to maintain it as it was. We set out to design something that is very similar in size, but increases our power, increases our capabilities and allows us to test these future concepts.”

The development was definitely a collaborative effort. Designing and replacing the test stand took around five years from conceptualization to being fully operational. The team consisted of AvMC engineers co-located at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; their AvMC counterparts co-located at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California; NASA’s Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology Project, Modern Machine and Tool and Advanced Technologies Inc.

"Austin and the team did an amazing job bringing the Langley Rotor Test Stand to life,” said TDD’s Experimental Aeromechanics Branch Chief Jacob Wilson. “It was a huge effort, but what impressed me as much, if not more, was their vision to look ahead and say we must have this new capability to support the future Army. The determination it took to garner leadership backing, coordinate groups inside and outside the Army, and ultimately make this a reality. We’ll be using LRTS for years to come supporting FVL, gathering key validation data for modeling and simulation, and exploring new rotorcraft technology for the Army of the future."

When brainstorming the new test stand to replace the General Rotor Model System, the team put together a “wish list” of what they would want their ideal test stand to do. LRTS delivers almost all those goals, Overmeyer said.

“We got a lot of what we want in there. Some things scale nicely and then there are some things, like strength of materials, that don't scale down. So, your hardware is limited, and you must do a custom design for every single component.”

Overmeyer said that one of their main objectives was to develop better rotorcraft designs and technology, while another facet, equally important, was validating modeling and simulation while identifying which parts need further refinement.

The LRTS got to show what it was made of for the first time in late 2022 for its inaugural test in the subsonic tunnel. For Overmeyer and the team, who have long gotten the job done working with what they had, it was gratifying to create and design what the next generation of researchers would use for testing the future of Army rotorcraft.

“It was rewarding to oversee the development of a new state-of-the-art test stand from concept to initial testing. It will be exciting to see how the LRTS will be utilized to meet the testing requirements of new FVL designs and challenges,” Overmeyer said.

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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.