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Boeing's ScanEagle UAV ungergoes wind tunnel testing at NIAR

Beech Wind Tunnel performs tests for Boeing UAV

The Beech Wind Tunnel at Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research recently performed subsonic wind tunnel tests for a full-scale model of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems' ScanEagle Compressed Carriage, a long-endurance autonomous unmanned vehicle.  

Boeing engineers, including Program Manager David Langness, spent two weeks in the tunnel facilities while the ScanEagle Compressed Carriage model underwent aerodynamic tests to determine the impact of thrust and drag.  

A portion of the test involved power-testing. The ScanEagle team provided an electric motor and propeller to replicate the actual heavy fuel propulsion system of the UAV.  

"The pre-test preparation and communication by the ScanEagle team for this unique test allowed us to obtain data very early in the testing schedule," said Aerodynamics Lab director John Laffen.

Langness said his group traditionally performs wind tunnel tests in Boeing Technology Services wind tunnel or the wind tunnel at St. Louis University, but the former was too large and the latter was too small.

Chris Tavares, an engineer for the ScanEagle Compressed Carriage program and 2004 graduate of WSU's College of Engineering, recommended the Beech Wind Tunnel for the tests because the tunnel was the perfect size for the ScanEagle's full-scale model.

"It became a perfect fit from that standpoint," said Langness. "The tunnel has worked out really well, and the staff has been great."  

"The ScanEagle team was great to work with and we enjoyed the challenges presented by the unique nature of the test," said Laffen.  "We look forward to working with the team again in the future."

The Beech Wind Tunnel is a state-of-the-art 7-foot by 10-foot by 12-foot subsonic wind tunnel capable of reaching speeds of 240 mph. The tunnel is equipped with external and internal balances, a sting mount system, real-time data acquisition and flow visualization. For more info visit thewebsite or contact John Laffen at 316.978.5481.  

About the Boeing ScanEagle Compressed Carriage

The ScanEagle Compressed Carriage - four feet long with a 7.5-foot wingspan - is launched autonomously via a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher and flies pre-programmed or operator-initiated missions guided by GPS and its onboard flight-control system. It is retrieved using a "Skyhook" system in which the UAV catches a rope hanging from a 50-foot high pole. The patented system allows ScanEagle to be runway independent and operate from forward fields, mobile vehicles or small ships.

Press release issued by National Institute for Aviation Research on February 16, 2009


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