Team effort drives advanced rotorcraft

Team effort drives advanced rotorcraft

8-Dec-2014 Source: US Army

Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center has partnered with both Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in cooperative Technology Investment Agreement with the Future Advanced Rotorcraft Drive System Programs. These programs focus on the critical performance and affordability enhancing drive system technologies for the Army’s current and future force fleet of rotorcraft, as well as commercial rotorcraft.

The Aviation Development Directorate-Aviation Applied Technology Directorate works
hand-in-hand with the Bell FARDS program and the Sikorsky program to increase the drive system Power-to-Weight ratio, reduce production, operating and support costs, reduce noise and automatically detect critical failures. Both programs have met FARDS objectives through the development of several enabling technologies, and program costs are shared between the government and the industry.

Government programs such as the Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs enable new technologies to be developed.

“Being able to leverage the technologies developed by these small businesses and nonprofit research institutions allows us to meet the aggressive program goals for the FARDS program,” Jason Fetty said.

Ferrium C64 is a gear steel material with a high hardness level. This material allows gears to run at high load levels without failure and carry more loads through the gearbox. High strength materials are needed so that the gears do not fail during high load conditions.

Gearbox housing technologies developed under FARDS include topological optimization and 3D digital definition employing additive manufacturing. Topological optimization methods are found to be successful in optimizing casting sizing, weight and features. Three-dimensional digital definition with additive manufacturing allows for modeling of casting pours, along with the creation of digitally-defined molds. These technologies improve housing manufacturing, and allow for a significant reduction in housing weight.

Supercritical drive shaft technology developed under FARDS improved existing rotorcraft drive shafts. Typically a tail rotor drive shaft is made up of several shaft segments and couplings and operates at a rotational speed below the shaft’s first natural frequency, or critical speed. The supercritical shaft developed under FARDS operates above the third natural frequency and explores different materials, processes and bearing arrangements. The system requires fewer parts, resulting in reduced weight and cost.

The FARDS technologies are designed, fabricated and tested to demonstrate the program goals in a relevant environment.

“The FARDS technologies have the potential to not only significantly increase performance, but also reduce costs for the Army’s rotorcraft,” Fetty said. “The cost share from industry allows for additional risk reduction testing, which furthers the technology readiness levels of the technologies. It also shows that industry has confidence in the commercial applications of the developed technologies.”

The FARDS program will provide enabling drive system technologies for current rotorcraft as well as future platforms such as Future Vertical Lift. The improvements in durability will reduce the logistical support requirements and cost of ownership. New diagnostic capabilities will allow for transition to zero maintenance aircraft. The new FARDS diagnostic technologies are designed to detect more failures in a drive system than what can currently be detected. The program goals are planned to be demonstrated by the end of 2015.

The Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

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