In September of 1994 a small uninhabited aerial vehicle took to the air. While the flight of this lightweight powered glider was unremarkable, its 3 minutes aloft represented a turning point in adaptive aerostructures technology as it was the first man-made craft to stay aloft while using only adaptive materials for all flight control. This paper celebrates and summarizes two decades of flying adaptive aerostructures controlling missiles, munitions and UAVs. The paper starts with an historical review of the technologies which underpinned the first adaptive flight vehicles. Twist-active piezoelectric plates are shown beside the earliest flightweight stabilators they were integrated into. A brief description of the 120cm wingspan UAV “Mothra” which took to the air 20 years ago is given. The earliest hard-launched adaptive actuators were designed and developed just a year after Mothra took to the air. The paper summarizes the resulting (unrestricted) adaptive actuator configurations which have come around since that time, including actuator assemblies for guided bullets and cannon shells from 5.56mm through 155mm. A decade ago, the first post-buckled precompressed (PBP) piezoelectric flight control mechanisms debuted as enabling technologies in a unique class of aircraft: “hovering missiles” flew at international airshows, guided rounds hit targets on gunnery ranges and entered serial production with PBP actuator assemblies. More modern incarnations of these actuators and others have been designed into GPS-guided grenade, mortar and artillery shells. Today, some of the world’s most active and highest work energy density actuators are built with ultra-high strain adaptive materials and have been shown to dramatically cut CEP of gravity weapons, cruise missiles and glide shells. The paper concludes with a chart showing which classes of adaptive actuators have been flown in what types of weapon systems and UAVs over the past 20 years.
- Aerospace Division
20 Years of Adaptive Aerostructures in Flying Missiles, Munitions and UAVs
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Barrett, R. "20 Years of Adaptive Aerostructures in Flying Missiles, Munitions and UAVs." Proceedings of the ASME 2014 Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems. Volume 2: Mechanics and Behavior of Active Materials; Integrated System Design and Implementation; Bioinspired Smart Materials and Systems; Energy Harvesting. Newport, Rhode Island, USA. September 8–10, 2014. V002T04A022. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/SMASIS2014-7662
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