The University of Texas (UT) at Austin, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics has been selected by Raytheon Missile Systems to conduct research on a next-generation Small Unmanned Air System (SUAS). The project will explore options for enhancing the performance of a Raytheon SUAS and propose advanced variants capable of meeting demanding new performance requirements. The research results will be considered by Raytheon for rapid prototype development and flight testing during 2009. Aerospace seniors Madaline Dziuk of San Antonio and Joe Escamilla of El Paso and Juniors Krystal Stewart of Schulenburg and Charles Gilbreath of Tolar are conducting the research under the guidance of Dr. Armand Chaput, Director of the UT Air System Laboratory (ASL) and ASL Laboratory Assistant, Mr. Mark Maughmer II.

The undergraduate team is supporting Raytheon from a dedicated work area at UT-Austin using a secure, high-speed internet connection. Project task and schedule performance are being conducted to typical industry standards and is providing the students with first-hand project experience while learning how to apply classroom knowledge to real world aerospace problems.

Dr. Robert Bishop, Chairman of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics sees the Raytheon project as a pilot for a longer-term initiative where aerospace students will be able to work part-time on real-world aerospace projects as an integral part of their undergraduate experience. Over the long term, this type of virtual work-study program could help attract more students, including women and minorities, to careers in aerospace. Currently U.S. aerospace is facing a future engineering workforce generational gap that is approaching critical proportions.

The Raytheon project will give UT aerospace students experience working with complex design issues, demanding technical and schedule challenges and customer expectations. Although Aerospace students get experience in these areas through national and international student design competitions, real-world project environments are different. They are more structured and have to deal with a more diverse range of technical, ethical and professional issues.

The Raytheon project is providing the UT student team with an opportunity to experience the real world while remaining on campus. The experience is similar to traditional COOP assignments except for the on-campus work location. The approach addresses the financial realities of modern university life where undergraduate students work part time to make ends meet but also contributes to professional development.

Details of the R&D project are Raytheon proprietary but generally involves trade studies on an advanced blended wing body concept and verifying the predicted results using advanced state-of-the-art design and analysis tools. Participating students and faculty will be able to publish selected non-proprietary elements of their projects for academic or professional development purposes.

Trade studies for the Raytheon project are being conducted using UT-Austin’s Rapid Air System Concept Exploration (RASCE) physics-based parametric modeling and simulation (M&S) system. Originally developed for use on student design projects, RASCE has been expanded into an overall air system design and analysis tool and applied outside the classroom. RASCE runs in real time on a standard laptop and allows students to explore a wide range of air vehicle options and/or conduct trade studies during a typical class session. It is a mature system, having been used on over 200 student design projects since its introduction at UT in 2003.

Trade study verification will be performed using a range of UT-Austin developed in-house and commercially available design and analysis tools including the DARCorporation Advanced Aircraft Analysis (AAA) program. The UT student team is evaluating a range of wing airfoil designs and other aerodynamic integration options with potential for improved aerodynamic performance. The results of the study will be presented to Raytheon project management and include computer aided design (CAD) drawings and 3-dimensional models suitable for handoff to Raytheon’s rapid prototype manufacturing team.

The University of Texas Air System Laboratory was established in 2006 by Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics department chairman Dr. Robert H. Bishop through a generous grant from Lockheed Martin. The laboratory provides undergraduate and graduate students with hands-on multi-discipline educational and research experience involving overall air systems. The laboratory includes capabilities for air system concept design, analysis, fabrication and integration. Inquiries about the UT Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics or the Department’s Air System Laboratory can be directed to Dr. Robert Bishop, Department Chairman or ASL Laboratory Director, Dr. Armand J. Chaput.