Mississippi State University engineers conduct Drone anti-icing Research for icy conditions.

Raspet’s Peter McKinley (foreground) and Caden Teer place 3-D printed ice shapes on the wings of one of the flight lab’s unmanned aircraft. (Photo by Megan Bean)  

SOURCE msstate STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State engineers in the university’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory are spearheading research that could make unmanned aircraft systems operational by the U.S. government as well as civilian aviation in icy conditions.

MSU is leading an icing system development and technology team in what the U.S. Department of Defense hopes will result in lightweight anti-icing systems, leading to certification for UAS to operate in forecasted icing conditions. The DOD recently awarded $5 million for this effort that also includes the university’s aerospace engineering department and several industry partners.

The entire team is evaluating the use of a new carbon-nanotube coating, part of an intelligently controlled ice protection system. One aspect of the flight testing  includes 3-D printed ice shapes designed by Raspet to mimic frozen formations affixed to the wings. Results from those tests help inform the development of the ice protection system. 

“Our innovative approach allows us to replicate the most severe in-flight icing conditions without traveling to cold and remote areas,” said Tom Brooks, Raspet interim director. “This allows us to conduct nearly unlimited test flights at a much lower cost and generate the data we need to develop effective, low-cost and retrofittable anti-icing system solutions for use on today’s sophisticated unmanned aircraft.”

NASA-designed sophisticated software models predict the shapes, and test flights are conducted, assessing these shapes’ impact on aerodynamic performance. Icing increases drag, reduces lift and adds weight to aircraft.

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