John B. Kosmatka, professor of composite and aerospace structures at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering, performed tests on Northrop Grumman’s MQ-5B Hunter unmanned aerial vehicles, including this older model with a smaller wing.
The three-month research effort, conducted jointly by Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector and the Jacobs School of Engineering's Department of Structural Engineering tested the aircraft's wing structure and verified that it can endure a higher amount of stress. This means the UAV can carry more weight during takeoff. A presentation on the work won the "Outstanding Technical Paper Award" at the 37th International Fall Technical Conference in Seattle, WA, sponsored by the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering.
"The increased takeoff weight gives the U.S. Army the flexibility to add additional communications, intelligence and weapon payloads to the Hunter, expanding the capabilities of the warfighter," said Aaron Valdes, Northrop Grumman's lead engineer during the partnership. "This flexibility will expand the aircraft's multi-mission role on the battlefield."
"This project was a tremendous opportunity for our aerospace graduate students and our undergraduate students at UCSD," said John B. Kosmatka, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "The students were able to witness the test and see how flexible, yet strong these wing structures actually are during these extremely critical flight loads."
Another benefit of the wing structure test was the research team's ability to determine that the aircraft's endurance could be increased by as much as 50 percent, which means the Hunter can remain airborne for more than 18 hours. Greater endurance allows battlefield commanders to collect more intelligence over a larger area during a single flight.