Drone forebody mount for wind tunnel testing

Adaptive mount secures UAV modules to a test stand for environmental chambers that simulate the harsh conditions of flight


Scientists at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren Division have recently invented a fixture that allows an aerial drone to be secured to a test stand for use in wind tunnels and other flight condition simulators. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

ScanEagle, an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), in flight. (U.S. Navy photo /Released)

The employment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has rapidly expanded around the world for civilian, commercial, and military applications. Drone testing is often required to ensure all systems will operate as designed, but conducting actual flights with the system can be costly. Instead, many applications could benefit from drone testing in environmental chambers that simulate extreme temperature, humidity, wind, and vibration

To this end, naval researchers have created an adaptive fixture to secure a drone module to a test stand for experiments in wind tunnels and other environmental chambers. In particular, the patent describes a ring adapter that attaches to the forebody of the popular ScanEagle aerial drone, developed and built by Boeing subsidiary Insitu. However, an alternate geometry of the fixture will enable components from other UAVs to be mounted in the same way.

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