Drucella Andersen
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
March 4, 1992
(Phone: 202/453-8613)

Donald G. James
Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif.
(Phone: 415/604-3935)

RELEASE: 92-28


   NASA and the U.S. Army have begun a $25 million, 5-year program to expand the ability of helicopter pilots to fly close to the ground, around obstacles and in bad weather.

   The effort at NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., will experiment with innovative computer software that determines how helicopters respond to pilots' commands. This effort also will study the displays that give pilots information, better guidance and navigation systems and ways to improve helicopter weapons systems.

   The program's main research tool is a highly-modified UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter called the Rotorcraft-Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory or "RASCAL". Researchers will conduct flight tests at Ames and at Crows Landing, a U.S. Navy facility in California's San Joaquin Valley.

   "Both NASA and the U.S. Army have made improving helicopters' maneuverability and agility one of their top research and development program goals," said Edwin Aiken, NASA Ames Research Center Program Manager. "With RASCAL, we're putting a research laboratory in a helicopter. Now, when we experiment with flight control software, advanced displays or navigation aids, we can get a realistic sense of how they work."

   Helicopters often operate under high-risk conditions, including high-speed, terrain-following flight near the ground ("nap-of-the-Earth" flying) and air combat, placing a premium on their agility and maneuverability, Aiken said.
Maneuverability refers to total helicopter performance, while agility refers to a helicopter's speed in executing maneuvers in response to pilot commands.

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   The UH-60A RASCAL replaces a CH-47B Chinook helicopter that performed research from 1986 to 1989, but had some limitations. "Research with the CH-47B was limited to low speed and hover flight regimes. With the higher performance capability of the UH-60, we can more accurately simulate future high-speed, low-flying military helicopters," Aiken said.

   The UH-60A will be used in three research programs: Superaugmented Controls for Agile Maneuvering Performance (SCAMP), Automated Nap-of-the-Earth (ANOE) and Rotorcraft Agility and Pilotage Improvement Demonstration (RAPID).

   SCAMP will investigate methods to improve helicopter maneuverability and agility with advanced flight controls. Flight test results will be compared with computer analyses and ground simulations.

   The ANOE program will develop low-altitude guidance algorithms and pilot display laws that will let helicopters to automatically follow terrain and avoid obstacles. Airborne activities will focus on guidance and control and detection of obstacles and hazards.

   RAPID will develop ways to measure and rate helicopter agility and will produce a system to help pilots fly with improved stability and control. The program also will create methods to let pilots fly helicopters to their limits without increased workload, will research ways to improve weapon systems with special-purpose control laws that govern a helicopter's stability and agility and will try to improve the helicopters' stability when carrying suspended loads.


EDITORS NOTE: A photograph of the NASA/Army UH-60 RASCAL is
available to illustrate this release by calling 202/453-8375.

Color: 92-HC-116 B&W: 92-H-133

This article comes from Science Blog. Copyright 2004

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