Research + Tech

Research could allow drone flight in icy conditions

According to, engineers at Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, Starkville, are working on research that could allow unmanned aircraft systems, including drones, to be operational by the U.S. government and civilian aviation in icy conditions.

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

The team is evaluating the use of a new carbon-nanotube coating, part of an intelligently controlled ice-protection system. Flight testing includes 3D printed ice shapes designed by Raspet Flight Research Laboratory to mimic frozen formations affixed to an aircraft’s wings; results from the tests help inform the development of the ice-protection system.

NASA-designed sophisticated software models predict the shapes, and test flights are conducted, assessing the shapes’ effects on aerodynamic performance. Icing increases drag, reduces lift and adds weight to aircraft. The newly developed coating for unmanned aircraft systems has extremely high heat conductivity, allowing it to transfer warmth from small heat strips on the wings’ leading edges to counter ice formation.

If successful, the system also would be of interest in the civilian aviation industry.

ASTM International standard supports architectural mockups

ASTM International’s Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings has developed a standard to help architects design mockup structures used for new construction. At press time, the new standard was set to be approved as E3223.

ASTM International member Eric Peterson notes when new buildings are constructed, especially large, complex buildings with intricate façades, architects build a mockup that simulates a portion of the new building’s façade and components.

“This mockup not only permits the architect to visualize what the final building façade will look like [but it also] permits an opportunity to work through challenging details, evaluate interfacing conditions and perform testing on the building façade before it is constructed on the building,” says Peterson, a principal at WDP & Associates Consulting Engineers, Manassas, Va. “This standard provides valuable information to the specifier for the development of the mockup program including best practices for the design, construction and testing of these systems.”

According to Peterson, the new standard will be primarily useful to architects but also contains information that will be valuable for construction teams, including owners, construction firms and testing agencies.

In addition, the standard helps in the creation of energy-efficient and high-performing building envelopes that can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases.

Peterson says the committee invites interested parties to participate in the development of future revisions to the new standard because there is a wide variety of experiences with mockup construction.



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