Remotely Piloted Plane Bridges Gap Between Wind Tunnel and Crewed Testing

A new modular, subscale remotely piloted aircraft offers NASA researchers more affordable options for developing a wide range of cutting edge aviation and space technologies. The Prototype-Technology Evaluation and Research Aircraft (PTERA) flying laboratory bridges the gap between wind tunnels and crewed flight testing.

NASA Armstrong’s PTERA remotely piloted research aircraft made its first flight on October 22, 2015. (NASA Photo/Jim Ross)

The ability to alter PTERA’s configuration allows cost-effective testing of unconventional designs that might otherwise be too dangerous or expensive to test with a full-scale, crewed aircraft. The PTERA aircraft are configured to resemble an 11%-scale Boeing 737 with a wingspan of 11.3-feet and 200-pound gross weight. Powered by two 50-pound-thrust JetCat P200 engines, each PTERA has a semi-modular airframe designed to accommodate a variety of configurations and technologies.