The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) awarded the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering $5 million to launch a new university-led Center of Excellence (COE) at the joint college.
Research at the new center will support the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) ongoing effort known as the Missile Utility Transformation via Articulated Nose Technology Project or MUTANT. The program aims to create a better flight control actuation system at hypersonic speeds like Mach-5, which the USAF values for national security and air superiority.
“This new Center of Excellence on morphing structures for aerospace applications will significantly enhance our research collaboration with the FCAAP partner institutions and Air Force Research Laboratories,” Rajan Kumar, the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion (FCAAP) director, said. “The consortium will allow our students, post-docs and faculty to interact with AFRL engineers and scientists and develop technologies for next-generation high-speed flight vehicles.”
William Oates, a mechanical engineering professor and researcher, leads the collaborative effort that brings a diverse team of expert researchers to address a broader nature of research relevant to these challenges. Researchers from Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the USAF will leverage their expertise in munitions, aerospace systems and materials and manufacturing in the multidisciplinary facility.
“The work we are doing has military as well as civilian applications,” Oates said. “The systems have potential commercial use for advanced aircraft as well as energy systems to advance wind power and gas turbines. We want to develop technology that tightly integrates computations into aerodynamic morphing structures for better control and agility.”
In addition to the research-specific goals of advancing the intelligence and agility of next-generation aircraft systems, the center will provide unique opportunities for student development. The AFRL views Center of Excellence programs as a prime opportunity for academic engagement and a pipeline for highly skilled researchers.
“This facility and partnership will serve as the nexus for designing, modeling and testing integrated aerospace systems and structures,” Oates said. “It will support students and faculty, promote discovery of new intelligent aerospace systems, and help create a workforce of aerospace engineers for the Air Force Research Laboratory and industry partners.”
FCAAP will manage the facility, and graduate and undergraduate students will have research opportunities giving them the technical and leadership skills to succeed in their future careers.
“Students will have the opportunity to work with world-class experimental facilities to develop and understand theory and advanced computations,” Oates said. “Mentorship is a big part of this project, and we have an exceptional team of engineering faculty who work closely with AFRL scientists and engineers.”
When it comes to studying the next generation of high-speed vehicles the COE will focus on, Christian Hubicki, an assistant robotics professor in mechanical engineering and grant collaborator, said, “Fast and adaptive decision-making is crucial to the success of this project, which is something we have been developing in robotics for years. The faster things move, the faster they need to think.”