Corporate History of Advanced Rotorcraft Technology, Inc.
ART was founded in 1982 by Dr. Ronald Du Val. His vision was to provide consulting support and software products to facilitate the use of simulation technology in rotorcraft research and development. By 1985 ART had grown to six employees and was supporting McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis on modeling the proposed LHX aircraft, NASA at ARC in modeling the experimental X-wing rotorcraft, and Sikorsky in developing higher harmonic control algorithms for the X-wing. In 1985 ART won the first in a series of Small Business Innovations Research (SBIR) contracts. This one was focused on demonstrating the potential for using parallel processing to achieve real-time blade element simulation with affordable computers. ART started with the blade element X-wing simulation and identified the data flow in sufficient detail to allow partitioning of the simulation across four auxiliary processors in a MicroVAX backplane. The software required to support parallel data interfaces and synchronization of parallel processors was developed by ART in the absence of parallel operating systems at that time. Under Phase II of this SBIR, ART performed this parallelization on the blade element UH-60 model in use on the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS) and demonstrated real time operation on a computer that cost a fraction of the CDC 7600 VMS host. In a follow on contract from the Army, ART brought the Parallel MicroVAX system to a UH-60 simulator at Ft. Ord and replaced the disk rotor model in use by that simulator with the parallel processing blade element rotor model. A series of Army pilots tested the two rotor models and confirmed the enhanced realism of the blade element simulation.
In the course of working with existing rotorcraft models to support engineering analysis and training applications it became evident that derivation, programming, and checkout of the simulation software was a major part of every simulation effort and ART’s experience with software parallelization demonstrated the importance of a modular program structure in efficiently reconfiguring modeling elements for different architectures. In 1986 ART began developing FLIGHTLAB, a rapid prototyping environment for rotorcraft modeling and analysis. ART developed Scope, an interpretive simulation language with a Matlab-like syntax, to serve as the development environment and also created a library of modeling components that could be reconfigured into arbitrary architectures for modeling of dynamic systems. The combination was a powerful interactive modeling and analysis environment. By using an interpretive language to “glue” the components together and a compiled library of modeling components for the dynamic equations, FLIGHTLAB achieved the interaction of an interpretive language with the speed of a compiled language.
In 1985 ART competed for a role in the Army’s new Second Generation Comprehensive Helicopter Analysis System (2GCHAS) and won, becoming the only small business in a coalition of rotorcraft manufacturers including Sikorsky, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing and Kaman. Over the next five years ART gained a leading role in 2GCHAS and, in 1990 became Prime Contractor for 2GCHAS System Enhancements. Development of 2GCHAS and FLIGHTLAB proceeded in parallel with FLIGHTLAB focusing on handling qualities analysis and 2GCHAS focusing on comprehensive modeling for structures and loads analysis. In the mid 1990s ART introduced comprehensive modeling elements to FLIGHTLAB , including nonlinear beam elements and vortex wake aerodynamics. In a Rotor Dynamics Workshop sponsored by the American Helicopter Society in 1995, ART demonstrated the power of its comprehensive modeling elements and its solution methodology in the prediction of high frequency vibratory loads. Also in the mid 1990s ART developed powerful graphical user interfaces for FLIGHTLAB to expedite the interactive development and analysis of rotorcraft models from libraries of modeling templates and analysis utilities, eliminating the need to write and test software.
Army interest in the FLIGHTLAB Development Environment and solution methodology increased and in 1997 ART was awarded an SBIR to incorporate the 2GCHAS rotorcraft technology into the FLIGHTLAB environment. The resulting program, designated the Rotorcraft Comprehensive Analysis System (RCAS), demonstrated improved computational performance and ease of maintenance over the 2GCHAS program and extended the range of 2GCHAS analysis to include large frame motion. In 1999 ART and the Army’s Aeroflight dynamics Directorate established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) under which ART would support RCAS as a nonproprietary Government research tool and the Army would support ART in modeling and validating Army rotorcraft in the RCAS environment. The commonality of the RCAS and FLIGHTLAB environments facilitated the interchange of models between the two programs so RCAS models could be migrated to FLIGHTLAB where they could utilize FLIGHTLAB’s real time capabilities to integrate the models with simulators to support piloted simulation activities for research and training applications.
In parallel with ART’s support of Army rotorcraft applications, ART has worked with the Navy to expand FLIGHTLAB’s rotorcraft aerodynamic interference modeling to support the complex “Dynamic Interface” environment of shipboard landing. Through a series of Navy SBIRs ART has modeled the interaction of the ship airwake with rotor blades and the interaction of the downwash with the airwake and the moving ship deck to provide the most comprehensive model of rotorcraft/shipboard operations currently available.
FLIGHTLAB blade element helicopter models are today being used in the Army’s Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Training (AVCATT) simulators and is under consideration to support training in rotorcraft shipboard operations. A FLIGHTLAB blade element model of the V-22 has been integrated with the Manned Flight Simulator at Patuxent River MD for use in supporting V-22 shipboard landing research. The Army and the Navy are both using FLIGHTLAB to support rotorcraft flight testing and, under a recent Phase II SBIR, ART will use FLIGHTLAB to evaluate criteria for Army simulators to support handling qualities evaluations.