NASA Outreach Program Assists Peregrine With Research for Optionally Piloted Aircraft

MELBOURNE, Fla. — The NASA funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) strives to transfer the knowledge and technology of the space program to small businesses. Through SATOP, the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), a SATOP Space Alliance partner, provided Computational Fluid Dynamics research assistance to Peregrine, a manufacturer of an emerging Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) derived from a FAA certified aircraft. FIT’s faculty, technical expertise, and highly motivated students are a tremendous resource for small aerospace businesses. The Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) founded the SATOP program and have administered it since 1994.

TRDA works with early-stage technology companies and entrepreneurs to accelerate their business planning, fundraising efforts, business development strategies and growth. Since its inception in 1987, TRDA has mentored hundreds of technology entrepreneurs and has supported over 175 new technology companies that have created more than 1,350 high wage jobs throughout Florida.

The Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) is a hybrid between a conventional piloted aircraft and robotic unmanned aircraft system, also referred to as a “Drone.” OPA’s offer the best of both worlds — enhanced human aviator performance and the capability of a robotic aircraft for missions not suitable for manned flight. The prospective Peregrine OPA will complement the current restricted use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems within the National Airspace System. Piloted and Optionally Piloted security aircraft are increasingly in demand for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Peregrine is developing a Medium Altitude Long Endurance OPA similar in size to leading military Unmanned Aircraft Systems, with a wing span 53.8′, length 28.3′ and height 5.4′. The Peregrine OPA will provide quiet to near-silent airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability at reduced operating costs through improved fuel economy and lower emissions compared to conventional aircraft.

The Peregrine series-hybrid configuration utilizes an electric motor, powered by batteries and an intermittently operated gas-turbine generator that produces electricity for charging the batteries and or powering the electric motor propulsion system. This provides a redundant source of power if needed. The series-hybrid propulsion system offers extended range through rapid in-flight refueling and self-recharging capability that is not feasible with existing stand alone battery technology. Peregrine can reduce dependency on fossil fuels and utilize alternative fuels including diesel, biofuels, compressed natural gas and liquid petroleum gas, while cutting global-warming pollutants.

The Peregrine Hybrid is a solution for current battery technology limitations, where energy density remains low, and the time-consuming recharging cycle reduces applicability for the most demanding aerial application. Whereas turbines are proven to be economical with supreme reliability, easily maintained for long service life, and are ideal for intermittent operations operating at peak efficiency. Series-hybrid systems are most suitable for applications where the aircraft has long loiter requirements with an intermittent climb and sprint-dash flight profile. Peregrine uses the latest “Green Technology” to be environmentally responsible setting a new standard for exceptional performance, making an electric aircraft commercially practical.


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