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 for land, air, and maritime domains, as well as impacting across the scales from micro to macro.

Aeromechanics for Rotorcraft and Unmanned Aerial Systems (APG)

ARL has established a Common Research Configuration (CRC) platform to serve as a benchmark to address technology challenges common to vertical lift unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The CRC will consist of quad bi-plane tail sitter configurations sized at gross weights of 20, 50, and 1000 lbs while exploring performance and understanding scalability across notional missions consisting of hover and cruise flight segments. The conceptual design, benchmark data, and the target performance goals for each of the designs will be made available to the research community. Collaborations are sought to advance the vehicle technologies and vehicle component performance attributes in the following areas: (a) aeromechanics of multi-rotor configurations; (b) flight dynamics & control of over actuated systems; (c) computational and experimental aeroacoustics; (d) design sizing methods for reconfigurable UAS; (e) computational fluid dynamics (CFD) methods to enable design; (f) uncertainty quantification in UAS design and performance analysis; (g) structural design methods for lightweighting; (h) additive manufacturing methods for UAS components; and (i) application of artificial intelligence and machine learning for flight control and propulsion system architecture.

Principal Investigators:                                 

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

Mission-Driven  Unmanned Aerial System Design and Validation (APG and ALC)

ARL researches, develops, and employs advanced design and validation methodologies for small unmanned systems that can extend Soldier reach, develop situational understanding, and improve protection and lethality.  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:

John Gerdes, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-8735
Nate Beals,, (410) 278-8882

Supporting Facility:
Spesutie Island Robotics Research Facility 2 (APG)
This facility houses prototyping capabilities which are used to build and repair parts associated with unmanned platforms; there is a focus on 3D printing methods that use a variety of materials.

Spesutie Island Robotics Research Facility 3 (APG)
This facility houses an indoor netted facility, which enables researchers to conduct experimentation and validate methodologies for small and micro unmanned systems. The Vicon motion capture system provides precise positioning to enable development of control systems for unmanned aerial systems, while the netting allows operators to remain safe as they develop and test new vehicle control strategies.

Mechanics of Handheld Aerial Mobility (APG)

Develop technologies and understanding 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 Essential Research Program.

Principal Investigator:

Christopher Kroninger,, (410) 278-5690

Supporting Facilities:
Aerodynamic Testing   
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
Michael Avera,, (410) 278-8977

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

Structural Materials & Resilient Structures (APG)

ARL is dedicated to understanding fatigue behavior of structural materials, innovating resilient structures, and simulate mechanical dynamics processes for future Army maneuver platforms. Focus areas included characterization of mechanical properties, vibrational dynamics, finite element analyses, and topology optimization modeling. Collaborations may potentially inform transition planning by assisting in the scale-up to performance demonstrations, utilizing proxy payloads and simulated mission conditions.

Principal Investigators:

Robert Haynes, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-8035
Daniel Cole, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-9172
Todd Henry, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-7650

Supporting Facility:
Structural Adaptive Components and Actuation Lab (APG)
Equipment Available: MTS Planar Biaxial Test System; 1-kHz, 5-kip "High Cycle Fatigue" servo-hydraulic mechanical testing machine; 5 kN electromechanical testing machine with environmental chamber; digital image correlation; MarkForged Metal 3D Printer; MarkForged 3D Composite 3D.

Material Phenomenology & Embedded Sensing (APG)

ARL is dedicated to discovery, innovation, and understanding of novel materials synthesis, fabrication, and processing; and novel sensor modalities and phenomena relevant to future Army maneuver platforms. Focus areas to include novel nanocomposites, multifunctional materials, molecular dynamics modeling, agile manufacturing methods, distributed and decentralized sensing networks, and novel materials characterization methods. ARL seeks collaborators to establish understanding of the precursors to damage in composite materials. Collaborative efforts will yield new sensing strategies optimized to models of individual constituents of nanocomposite materials to capture sensitive signal features for infrared (IR) signature management.

Principal Investigators:

Asha Hall, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-2384
Mark Bundy, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-4318

Supporting Facility:
Materials Characterization Lab and Platform Spectrum Analysis  (APG)
Equipment Available:
22-kip servo-hydraulic mechanical testing machines with assortment of ASTM standard test fixtures; modal analysis impact hammer, electromagnetic and piezoelectric shaker system; acoustic emission; impedance network analyzer; Keithly 4-point probe; Fiber Bragg grating sensor system; Gauss meter; high-speed oscilloscope; Hooriba Raman (in-situ tensile testing);Kurt J Lesker Sputtering System; Tevo 3D printer

Probabilistic Analytics (APG)

ARL seeks collaborators to develop analytical and numerical tools for advanced data analytics methodologies, data utilization and novel computer architecture exploitation for improved autonomy for future Army maneuver platform. Focus areas to included artificial intelligence machine learning, transportable machine intelligence. Further, collaboration is sought to develop artificial-intelligence inspired machine learning frameworks for evaluation of uncertainty and risk to self-sustaining platforms.

Principal Investigators:

Mulugeta Haile, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-5289
Michael Shiao, Ph.D.,, (410) 278-4780

Supporting Facility:
Intelligent Maneuver Analytics Lab (APG)

Equipment Available:
Computational resources include: 1 BOXX GX8 deep learning server equipped with 8 NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs and 3 Exact Spectrum Deep Learning DevBox machines, each with 4 NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti GPUs, and 8 Dell Precision GPU terminals. Operating systems include: Ubuntu 16.04 Server, CentOS 7, Dual boot Windows 10 / Ubuntu 16.04. Docker and Kubernetes are used as a containerization and cluster management platforms respectively for effective software deployment.