ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 16, 2015) – Army researchers and engineers are gathering at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, Jan. 14-16, to discuss research initiatives and focus on closing technology gaps on futuristic aviation-sustainment concepts that could forever change Army aviation — from air-vehicle design to usage and maintenance and real-time mission planning.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, has partnered with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, to organize the Zero-Maintenance/Fatigue-Free Workshop to “foster collaboration and transition from basic and applied science and technology to higher levels of research, development, test, and evaluation over the mid-2017 to 2021 and far-term, 2021 to 2030.”
“In Huntsville, industry and academia will continue to assess technology gaps, identify science and technology research needs, and formulate roadmaps and potential collaborations to support the Army aviation-sustainment goal of achieving near- or zero maintenance for future vertical-lift aircraft,” said Dy Le, the mechanics division chief at ARL. “Additionally, attendees will also continue to assess ARL’s Virtual Risk-informed Agile Maneuver Sustainment, or VRAMS, framework/architecture and its program-focus areas to solidify research strategies and initiatives to make this concept a reality.”
Le is the ARL sustainment focus lead, supporting the ARL Sciences for Maneuver-Logistics and Sustainment focus.
The event is a follow-on workshop to an August 2014 meeting hosted by ARL at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Attendees expect to refine taxonomies, or basically how to group things together, such as required capabilities, technology gaps, and metrics. The workshop will also foster collaboration strategies and establish integrated product teams.
Focus areas in the workshop include design methods and standards including-additive manufacturing, predictive health and monitoring data-analysis damage precursors, maintenance processes–VRAMS, and “material genome” self-healing.
ARL’s VRAMS is being designed to enable an integrated capability embedded within vehicles (ground, air, and autonomous systems) and other materiel to automatically gauge changes in their functional state, assess that functionality in the context of upcoming or even ongoing missions, and react accordingly to achieve mission requirements by the year 2040, according to ARL’s Sciences for Maneuver Campaign.
Le said the program would also increase materiel availability and reduce life-cycle costs of vehicle platforms and their relevant systems and components substantially.
Commanders, air-traffic controllers, and maintenance operators, for starters, could see in real time the performance, health, location, and usage of aircraft, for example, anywhere in the world at any time and make the most informed decisions on mission planning, aircraft operational capability, and health of systems and components based on early indications of damage, even at the smallest scales.
Technology ARL envisions that it would signal early damage, like micro-cracks, and would signal the release of self-healing agents like epoxy to repair materials like composites, for example, once this concept becomes reality. Solutions like these to support the technologies and its potential promises are part of the workshop discussion. VRAMS has garnered strong support from many experts within several aviation communities including Air Force Research Laboratory, Naval Air System Command, National Institute of Standard and Technologies, and NASA. The concept is also getting support from industries as well as academia including Acellent Technologies, Inc., Vertical Lift Center of Excellence, United Technology Research Center, Johns Hopkins, Stanford University, and the University of California-Irvine.
“ARL aims to demonstrate the VRAMS proof of concept, transition it to the aviation communities, including AMRDEC, for technology demonstration, and assist the acquisition community to mature the technology for sustaining Army Future Vertical Lift aircraft in the 2048 timeframe,” Le said.