Platform Mechanics

Platform Mechanics focuses on fundamental research that enables the development of the highly maneuverable platforms for the Army of the future.  Knowledge gained in this area is expected to impact a wide array of vehicle systems, including the ground, air, and maritime domains, as well as from micro- to macro-scales.

Aeromechanics for Rotorcraft and Unmanned Aerial Systems (APG)

Computational and experimental investigations of aeromechanics for rotorcraft and unmanned aerial systems are critical to enable the development of the Army’s first ever rotorcraft capable of supersonic speeds.  Designs thus far have been unable to increase top speed without unacceptable compromises in range, efficiency and useful payload.  Active and passive technologies for flow control and structural shape control remain technical challenges to minimize performance trade-off penalties in different flight regimes.  Complementary expertise, facilities and capabilities are sought in these areas:  (a) co-axial rotor test stand for experiments on rotors in hovering flights; (b) wind tunnel for rotorcraft scaled experimental research with a test section area greater than 50 sq ft and capable of speeds greater than a 0.2 Mach number; (c) anechoic chamber for rotor aero-acoustics experiments; (d) capability for active flow control experiments using plasma; (e) expertise in active shape morphing structures; (f) expertise and capability in shape memory alloys for morphing rotor concepts; and (g) water towing tank for aerodynamics research.

Principal Investigators:

Rajneesh Singh, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-4022
Matt Floros, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-7752

Mission-Driven Microsystem Design and Validation (APG and ALC)

ARL researches, develops, and employs advanced design and validation methodologies for small and micro unmanned systems that can extend Soldier reach, develop situational understanding, and improve protection.  Our objective is to enable in situ rapid manufacturing of unmanned aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms using a minimal set of components and 3-D printing technology.  Collaborating partners are sought to: (a) investigate hardware and software allocation and optimization techniques; (b) perform experiments to validate virtual and physical vehicles; (c) investigate parameterization of computer aided design (CAD) models; (d) perform mapping of system measures of suitability, performance, and effectiveness down to the hardware component level; (e) investigate how model-based systems engineering can enhance a conceptual design process and enable a collaborative web-based environment; (f) investigate application of DoD Manufacturing Readiness Assessment techniques to the conceptual design process; and (g) investigate application of multi-stakeholder interactions and value negotiation in the conceptual design process.

Principal Investigators:

Eric Spero,, (410) 278-8743
John Gerdes,, (410) 278-8735

Supporting Facility:
Sensors and Autonomous Systems Experimental Facility (ALC)
This facility aids in evaluation of emerging robotic and sensor systems.  Replicated urban terrain enables researchers to assess performance of individual and multiple unmanned systems in representative mission environments. Control room and laboratory space allows for system repair, development, and experimental control.

Mechanics of Handheld Aerial Mobility (APG)

Develop technologies and understandings to enable and enhance the performance of man-portable aerial systems.  Activities are in the areas of aeromechanics, actuation, flight dynamics and controls.  Specific interests include the development of flight dynamics and control for handheld aerial mobility. Design and implement controllers for handheld aerial systems.  Perform system ID on existing vehicles.  Complementary expertise is sought in unsteady and low Reynolds number aerodynamics; novel actuation for constrained size, weight and power; approaches to stability and control of non-linear, time varying systems; novel manufacturing/integration capabilities; and biomechanical understanding of animals. This research supports the Human-Agent Teaming ERA.

Principal Investigator:

Christopher Kroninger,, (410) 278-5690

Supporting Facilities:
Aerodynamic Testing [ScMvr-18]  
Microsystems Aeromechanics Wind Tunnel (APG):  This wind tunnel advances the study of fundamental flow physics relevant to micro air vehicle flight and assesses vehicle performance in terms of flight efficiency, stability and control to improve range, endurance, payload and maneuverability of handheld aerial platforms.  It is a slow-speed, closed return wind tunnel.  The test section is designed to be highly modular and a traversable rail super-structure allows for mounting experimental hardware around the test section.  Currently, supported experimental techniques include digital particle image velocimetry, hot-wire anemometry, static pressure measurement, and force and moment measurements.

Oil Tank (APG):
This is a low Reynolds number (<2500) facility designed for the aerodynamics scaling of insect wings.  Currently, six component force measurements can be measured from arbitrarily prescribed two degree of freedom (DoF) wing kinematics.

Rotorcraft Capability Assessment and Tradeoff Environment (APG)

ARL researches, develops, and employs tradespace exploration, technology insertion analysis, and decision analysis techniques to explore tradeoffs between requirements, technologies, and design parameters of conceptual-level rotorcraft.  Collaborating researchers are sought to investigate:  (a) surrogate model creation and rapid updating techniques; (b) application of multi-stakeholder interactions and value negotiation into existing portfolio selection algorithm; (c) methods for including multiple discipline areas and multiple levels of modeling and simulation fidelity in the tradespace exploration process; (d) transition of a stand-alone environment to a collaborative web-based environment; (e) techniques for addressing uncertainty in the description of technology model elements; and (f) techniques for alerting decision makers to important technology research areas early in design.

Principal Investigators:

Eric Spero,, (410) 278-8743
Rajneesh Singh, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-4022

Advanced Rotorcraft Aeromechanics Research (APG and NASA Langley)

ARL conducts foundational aeromechanics research to enable future Army rotorcraft with combinations of enhanced performance and low-maintenance burdens that are currently infeasible.  Research interests include novel approaches for enabling advanced concepts that may currently be considered to be “radical” from an aeromechanical/aeroelastic stability and/or response perspective.  Novel concepts from a structural dynamics, aerodynamic performance, coupled fluids/structures, and/or nonlinear dynamics theoretic perspectives are of interest.  Current research activities include hybrid nanocomposite structural dynamics, aerodynamic flow control, and morphing structures.

Principal Investigators:

Hao Kang, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-6811
Matt Wilbur,, (757) 864-1268

Supporting Facility:
Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (via an Interagency Agreement with NASA Langley)
The Langley Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (TDT) is the only sub-scale facility in the world in which the scaling parameters (i.e., Mach and Froude scaling) necessary to assess both rotorcraft performance and aeromechanical/aeroelastic stability may be achieved simultaneously.  This facility is a continuous-flow pressure tunnel capable of speeds up to Mach 1.2 at stagnation pressures up to 1 atm.  The tunnel has a 16-ft square slotted test section that has cropped corners and a cross-sectional area of 248 sq ft.  Either air or R-134a (a heavy gas) may be used as the test medium.  Finally, this facility is also uniquely suited to testing future Army rotorcraft configurations that are expected to achieve significantly greater flight speeds than currently fielded Army helicopters.  The wind tunnel facilities in which rotorcraft models are tested currently are incapable of reaching the desired speeds for these future Army vehicles.  The TDT, being a transonic tunnel, has no such limitation.  Use of this facility for collaborative research with ARL will require special coordination with NASA.

Mobility and Manipulation for Next-Generation Unmanned Systems (APG)

Development of theory, controls, and mechanisms (morphology, actuation, propulsion, etc.) to provide unmanned systems with the physical capabilities required to efficiently navigate and perform work in dynamic 3D environments is integral to missions where these systems are teamed with Soldiers.  Theoretical and experimental studies are needed.  These include extensive use of modeling and simulation tools for development of algorithmic and computational capabilities to describe the kinematics and dynamics of rigid and deformable multi-body systems and their interaction with the environment.  Research emphasis is on advanced robotic systems and biological systems that exhibit unique ambulation (such as brachiation, jumping, airborne, or wheeled mobility) and dexterous manipulation of their bodies, limbs, or objects within the environment. This research is linked to the Human Agent Teaming.

Principal Investigator:

Harris Edge,, (410) 278-4317