NASA is spearheading the efforts on Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and providing impetus to the industry to follow with concepts for the same. Several manufacturers, as well as, NASA, have come up with concepts for UAM aircraft; mostly using Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP). However, the multidisciplinary interactions involved and the ability to utilize the distributed propulsors for improved control are not fully understood. In particular there is a need to incorporate control surface and controller design in the design framework and account for aeroservoelastic interactions. To achieve this, we are developing the ADEPt, a design optimization architecture that includes multidisciplinary analyses for integrated airframe-DEP design. This technology, if successful, can push the state of the art in UAM aircraft concept design and DEP enabled aircraft in general.
The AAM project at NASA (and UTM as well) will directly benefit from this research, in terms of availing the true benefits of DEP-enabled aircraft. The design tool will help understand and leverage the multidisciplinary interactions involved and will directly benefit programs such as AAVP, AATT, TTT and RVLT, which are looking for advanced aircraft designs, particularly electrified distributed propulsion concepts.
Several aircraft manufacturers have responded to the UAM Grand Challenge and are actively pursuing designs for DEP aircraft for UAM. Hence, both commercial and civil contractors will benefit from ADEPt that can help them refine their designs or come up with new ones. We have also secured the support of Lockheed Martin, who is highly interested in this technology