The PTERA is being used by the experts at NASA as a remotely-piloted research platform mimicking the form and function of a sub-scale Boeing 737 airliner. It is being used to test the validity of NASA's own "Spanwise Adaptive Wing" (SAW) which allows the wing mainplanes to "morph" at their outboard sections (15 inches out) up or down some 75-degrees. The purpose of this action is to improve control and stability while reducing drag caused by other components of an aircraft's design - namely the tail planes. Such sub-scale designs allow for more realistic testing between potentially lethal manned flights and expensive wind tunnel data-collection. The aircraft was constructed by Area-I, Incorporated.
PTERA underwent flight-testing during July 2013 and was delivered to the Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB in California during October of 2014. Its first official flight was recorded on October 22nd, 2015 and all initial mission objectives were met including reaching a maximum speed of 145 knots.
Externally the aircraft certainly looks the part of a Boeing airliner with its tubular fuselage, short nosecone and single-finned tail unit. A fixed, tricycle landing gear arrangement provides the ground-running capability. The wing mainplanes are seated at midships and are not given sweepback of any kind. The horizontal planes at the tail are positioned low along the sides of the vertical fin. Various sensors and data-collecting systems are installed about the aircraft, identified by the various protrusions seen in its profile. The fuselage is designed as modular to more easily accept changes to its load out.
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September 2018 - On September 25th, 2018, the PTERA crashed and was destroyed during its post-landing roll. The crash occurred in clear weather at Armstrong Flight Research Center. An investigation is ongoing as to the cause.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
Aircraft inherently designed (or later developed) with an unmanned capability to cover a variety of over-battlefield roles.
14.7 ft (4.47 m)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base AREA-I (NASA) PTERA production variant)
monoplane / low-mounted / straight
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represent the most popular mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are low-mounted along the sides of the fuselage.
The planform involves use of basic, straight mainplane members.
(Structural descriptors pertain to the base AREA-I (NASA) PTERA production variant)
2 x JetCat P200 engines developing 50lb of thrust each unit.
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