In December 2020, the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), part of the Army Research Laboratory, initiated a Vehicle Innovative Powertrain Experimental Research laboratory (known as VIPER lab) to generate “transformational knowledge to advance next-generation rotorcraft transmissions.”
Next Generation rotorcraft designs include technology demonstrator concepts such as the Boeing Sikorsky SB.1 Defiant compound helicopter and Bell’s V-280 tiltrotor. The US Army has two Next Generation programmes in play: the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA).
The new VIPER concept lab is beginning its operations this month to explore and extend technologies that will help to provide increased flight loads, power density and endurance.
“The flexibility of VIPER is what makes it unique compared to other existing testbeds that usually focus on one gearbox platform,” said Dr. Ryan Emerson, leader of propulsion sciences research projects at the lab. “The ability to reconfigure the drive and load absorption motors within the test stand in order to connect to different gearboxes gives us the ability to conduct a wide-range of exploratory research projects and demonstrations.”
According to Emerson, the research will be transformational and will be able to “enhance future vertical lift, next generation rotorcraft transmissions and advance the future for drivetrain systems.”
The research conducted by DEVCOM falls under the orbit of the Army’s Future Command and is focused on technological innovation and is headquartered at the Adelphi Laboratory Centre in Maryland, although it has access to a range of other sites including the Aberdeen Proving Ground, also in Maryland, and the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.