NASA crash tests eVTOL concept


NASA researchers have completed a full-scale crash test of an eVTOL concept at the agency’s Landing and Impact Research (LandIR) facility.

NASA’s aims to help emerging aviation markets safely develop air transportation, understanding how aircraft may act in a crash scenario is a key point of research, it said.

The “Lift+Cruise” test article was developed by NASA’s Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) project. The vehicle was hoisted into the air and then released with pyrotechnic cutters. Experiments included several seat configurations including a NASA energy absorbing concept, various sizes of crash test dummies to study the effects of the crash loads on all sizes of occupants and a NASA-developed energy-absorbing composite subfloor. 

Justin Littell, research assistant for Langley’s Structural Dynamics Branch, said: “The test was a great success for the crash-worthiness team at Langley. We successfully tested the eVTOL vehicle concept representing a six-passenger, high wing, overhead mass, multiple rotor vehicle, obtaining more than 200 channels of data, and collecting over 20 onboard and off-board camera view.

During the floor crushing and seat stroking, the subfloor and energy absorbing seats functioned as intended and limited the effect of the impact on the crash test dummies. The effects of the second event, the collapse of the overhead structure, are still being determined. For this test, an overhead-mass was designed to represent the wing structure, rotor and battery. The decision was made to assume that all the weight of the overhead structure was over the cabin, but there are many other overhead-mass configurations which could behave differently in a crash.

“When looking at crash conditions for these types of vehicles, it’s important to note the structural weight and distribution that must be made when examining a specific design,” said Littell. “Our computational pretest models did a good job predicting the composite deformation until overhead structural failure. However, the computational models did not predict the overall collapse as seen in the test.”

The data will be used as the basis for evaluating potential test conditions and configurations that will be used during a drop test of a second Lift+Cruise test article, scheduled for testing in late 2023.