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NASA LA-8 eVTOL Testbed

LA-8 eVTOL Testbed
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, Virginia, USA
www.nasa.gov/langley

NASA has been in the process of making multiple Advance Urban Air Mobility Technology Testbeds, according to Dave North, the Unmanned Aerial Systems Section Lead. (In 2015-2016, NASA Langley researchers completed and tested a carbon fiber hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drone prototype named the Greased Lightning.)

NASA's reasons to research electric aircraft is to help answer difficult questions needed to help private industry. NASA's LA-8 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) test bed, has been called by NASA personnel, a flying laboratory for Urban Air Mobility (UAM).    

The eVTOL testbed is named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley (August 22, 1834 – February 27, 1906), an American astronomer, physicist and aviation pioneer, who named each of his prototype aircraft a number, his first aircraft was named No. 1. Langley called his aircraft an aerodrome because it roughly is translated from Greek, meaning air runner. Therefore, Langley Aerodrome 8 or LA-8.  

The aircraft has been designed so that NASA personnel can try as many different  technologies as needed, to help get data to understand how electric aircraft can help make Urban Air Mobility become a reality. One key test is how to make an aircraft which loses a propeller or an electric motor and can the aircraft land the aircraft safely. Another key test is to test whether the aircraft handle gusty wind conditions and keep its passengers safe.

Roughly 80% of the LA-8 aircraft is made from 3D printed materials allowing the engineers to change the wings, fuselage and other parts of the aircraft quite rapidly. Changes in CAD and then reprint the aircraft part almost immediately for the next model which reduces less labor hours for hand-made custom parts for the aircraft. Even though it might not look like it, their test bed is a modular design where you can change out the wings and fuselage, when desired, and try a different design. 

NASA plans to work with airframe manufactures, flight control companies, the FAA and other companies during their testing process. NASA wants to share their information with the private sector to help make UAM safe and reliable for all eVTOL aircraft, including both package delivery drones and passenger eVTOL aircraft.  

NASA has stated they will be building a series of eVTOL testbeds to help accelerate the Urban Air Mobility market and help companies in the private sector to get their aircraft airworthy, certified and safe to fly. 

Some of NASA's other VTOL projects include the NASA Puffin and NASA Greased Lightning.

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: eVTOL testbed
  • Piloting: Remote
  • Passengers: 0
  • Propellers: 8
  • Electric Motors: 8
  • Windows: None
  • Wings: Tandem tiltwing
  • Fuselage, wings: 3D printing (80% of the aircraft is 3D printed)
  • Landing gear: A tricycle type landing gear with one downward flange at the front of the aircraft and an inverted V shaped wing for its rear landing gear
  • Safety Features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft.

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