Virtual Webinar: Rotorcraft as Robots by Larry Young, NASA Rotorcraft Aeromechanics Office (8/20)

This is not a presentation about autonomous helicopters. This is, instead, a talk about rotorcraft that are robots—i.e., VTOL aerial platforms that have some level of capability to transform their nature and/or manipulate their environments. Autonomous system technologies, coupled with the development and maturation of novel aerial vehicle concepts (both fixed- and rotary-wing), leads inevitably to new design paradigms for aerial robots. In that spirit, a number of mission and design concepts for “rotorcraft as robots” are discussed and their merits and limitations are noted, as well as future opportunities for development. The objective of this work is to inspire future generations of aerospace engineers, intelligent systems technologists, and roboticists to develop systems that can address critical societal needs and application domains such as planetary exploration, field science campaigns on Earth, environmental monitoring, disaster relief and emergency response, wildlife conservation, and new aerospace transportation and distribution systems.

Larry Young works in the Aeromechanics Office, NASA Ames Research Center. Larry performs research in the area of advanced aerial vehicle and aerospace system conceptual design. Among his current and past projects are studies into fundamental vortical flow physics, tiltrotor aeroperformance and aeroacoustics, planetary aerial vehicles, vertical lift autonomous aerial vehicles, rotary-wing vehicles for disaster relief and emergency missions, metropolitan aerial transportation systems, advanced tiltrotor aircraft design, and “rotorcraft as robots.” He was an early researcher into Mars rotorcraft and other vertical takeoff and landing vehicles for planetary exploration. He is a member of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team and mentored Phase A student intern work performed on the Titan Dragonfly project that helped lead to its New Frontiers mission award. He was the principal investigator for the NASA Aeronautics Research Institute (NARI) Phase II study into metropolitan aerial transportation systems, a.k.a. Hopper networks, one of early studies into what has become known as eVTOL and Urban Air Mobility (UAM).

Thursday, August 20, 11:00 a.m. PDT

If planning to attend, please register for the virtual webinar here:

VFS SFBAC 2020 Awards Call

2020 awards call and nomination form (PDF)

The Vertical Flight Society has a tradition of honoring the vertical flight industry’s most outstanding achievements. The local San Francisco Bay Area Chapter fulfills this function by providing awards for Outstanding Technical Paper, Rotorcraft and Powered-Lift Research, Technical Support, and Contribution to the VFS Local Chapter.

Each of you has an important and distinct role to play in identifying those of your colleagues deserving of special recognition. If there is someone, or a group of persons, you feel is making an outstanding contribution to the world of vertical flight, please select from the award categories listed below and make your nomination(s).

Nominations must be submitted using the information on the form attached to this letter. Nominations should be e-mailed (no postal service due to closure of facilities) to the Awards Committee no later than close of business on Friday, July 3, 2020. E-mail submissions can be sent to Christopher Silva, VFS SFBAC Awards Chair, at the email address in the PDF linked above. If you have any questions, please contact Chris at that email address. The awards presentation will be scheduled at a future date.

Velkoff Award for Outstanding Technical Paper

Awarded to an individual(s) for the best technical paper, written or published within the last 12 months, documenting a significant contribution to the field of vertical flight.

Schroers Award for Outstanding Rotorcraft Research

Awarded to an individual or group for a significant contribution to rotorcraft technology.

Franklin Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Powered-Lift Field

Awarded to an individual or group for a significant contribution to powered-lift technology (other than helicopters.)

Award for Outstanding Contribution to the AHS Local Chapter

Awarded to an individual who has shown dedication and enthusiasm toward furthering the goals and interests of the local AHS chapter.

Award for Outstanding Technical Support

Awarded to an individual or group for exceptional technical support of vertical flight operations, research, or experimentation (such as technicians, operators, crew chiefs, pilots, inspectors, etc.).

Lifetime Achievement Fellow

Awarded to an individual for sustained, outstanding contributions to the advancement of rotorcraft through a life-long dedication and outstanding technical and management leadership.

Virtual Seminar: Psychoacoustic Measures for UAM Noise in the Context of Ambient Sound, by Durand Begault

By Durand Begault, Ph.D.
Advanced Controls and Displays Group – NASA Ames Research Center

The noise component of future aircraft and operations from Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles is widely recognized as a challenge to community acceptance. NASA’s RVLT (Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology) program is currently supporting research in the area of human response and psychoacoustics in an effort to augment current metrics for traditional aircraft. This talk will review current work at NASA Ames’ Human Systems Integration Division to evaluate detection, annoyance, and acceptability of UAM sound, in the context of expected ambient sound conditions.

Durand R Begault has worked as a research scientist at NASA Ames since 1988 in the areas of human factors, aerospace communication and warning systems, virtual reality, psychoacoustics, and multimodal research. He is a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society and has over 100 publications and 4 patents assigned to NASA. Dr. Begault recently implemented a multi-channel spatial auditory laboratory for psychoacoustic investigations of UAM sound within the Human Systems Integration Division (Code TH) and works collaboratively with psychoacoustic researchers at NASA Langley Research Center.

Thursday, June 11, 1:00 p.m. PDT
Virtual Seminar – Register Here:

Happy Hour at The SpaceBar, 2/26 4:30-6:30

Social Event

Come join the VFS local chapter at The SpaceBar for a drink and appetizers and maybe some networking on the side!

All are welcome. VFS members will receive one free drink ticket, and appetizers will be provided! 

NASA Ames Research Park
Building 3, The SpaceBar (Corner of South Akron Rd and Severyns Ave)
Wednesday, February 26, 4:30 – 6:30pm

Visitor passes are not required; however, a government-issued ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.) is required for all visitors to the Research Park, including vehicle passengers.

Non-US (Citizen or Permanent Resident) visitors: you will need an international driver’s license if you will be driving yourself into the Research Park. If you do not have an international driver’s license, you may ride with a US Citizen or Permanent Resident, but you will still need to show a government issued ID (e.g., passport) to the guards at the gate.

Technical Presentation – November 6th at 1pm: 2019 Nikolsky Awardee Nick Lappos presents Design Advantages of an Integrated Cyber-Physical Aircraft

2019 VFS Nikolsky Lecture
Design Advantages of an Integrated Cyber-Physical Aircraft
The Path to the Next Generation of Rotorcraft

By Nick Lappos
Senior Fellow – Advanced Technology, Lockheed Martin

Nick Lappos is Lockheed Martin Senior Fellow, for Rotary and Mission Systems, where he is responsible for the Sikorsky Technical Fellow community and the introduction of advanced technologies into new and existing products. Lappos began his Aerospace career in the US Army, where he served a combat tour as an attack helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He joined at Sikorsky Aircraft in 1973. Through 2005 and then again from 2011 to present, he has served in a variety of roles at Sikorsky, including as program director for the S-92® helicopter during its development and certification. Under his leadership, the program earned the Robert J. Collier Trophy. Lappos also served as director of Test Engineering and as assistant chief and chief Research and Development test pilot, logging more than 7,500 hours of flight time in over 70 different types of helicopters.

Wednesday, November 6, 1:00pm
NASA Ames Research Center, Bldg N258, Room 127

Visitors to Ames will require a visitor badge.
Please contact Natasha Shatzman to obtain a visitor badge.
Non-US persons – please contact Natasha ASAP, and we will do our best to get you a visitor badge.

Technical Seminar – Tuesday Sept 17 at 10am: Prof. Narayanan Komerath presents Evolving Priorities for Vertical Lift: A University View

Evolving Priorities for Vertical Lift: A University View

By Prof. Narayanan Komerath
Georgia Institute of Technology

The presenter considers his experience of planning and guiding university research since 1982. From the effect of the Attack Helicopter on the Cold War MAD equation, to disaster response, mountain operations and planetary exploration, vertical lift systems have posed unique opportunities and capabilities. He will reflect on how these historical and current news items translated to university research.

Four application opportunities are in present view:

  1. Options to skip over traffic congestion.
  2. UAV swarms as combat aircraft.
  3. Rural delivery, facilitating a reversal of urban migration.
  4. Ultralight rotorcraft and their potential in exploration, communications and in countering sea level rise and climate change.

(If you have any doubts that we have been saving and will continue to save the world, this should end those!)

Narayanan Komerath holds a B.Tech in aeronautical engineering (IIT Madras), MSAE in aerospace propulsion and PhD in AE (turbulent combustion), both from Georgia Tech. He has worked for 37 years at the School of AE at Georgia Tech. He has been a part of what is now the Army/NASA/Navy/FAA Vertical Lift Rotorcraft Center of Excellence, among other projects, since 1982. Since 1990 he has directed operations at the John J. Harper wind tunnel.

Tuesday, September 17, 10:00 a.m.
NASA Ames Research Center, Bldg N258, Room 127

Visitors to Ames will require a visitor badge.
Please contact Carl Russell ( to obtain a visitor badge. Unfortunately, due to the short notice for this talk, we are only able to accommodate US Citizens and Permanent Residents.

Basic Design Limitations for Urban Electric VTOL Aircraft by Olivier Cornes, 9/10/19

The discussions around urban air mobility (UAM) often suggest that a new aircraft type will be necessary to fulfill the UAM mission. These aircraft are supposed to take-off/land vertically and be fully electric, hence the name e-VTOL. Despite recent and upcoming technological developments in propulsion technology and flight controls, there exist physical limits that apply to the design the constrain the design space depending on of the mission, in particular in terms of rotor-disc area and wing area. This work develops a novel approach to sizing electric aircraft based on a quadratic polynomial, allowing fast sweeps of the design space and ultimately drawing feasible regions in the design space.

Olivier Cornes is a Swiss citizen who graduated with one master’s degree from EPFL (Switzerland) in Mechanical engineering as well as a masters degree from Sup’Aéro (France) in aerospace engineering. He conducted his master thesis research at MIT on developing network-based MDO techniques for Mars mission architecture. After graduating, he founded a chemical process design software start-up based in Switzerland. However, within less than a year, he missed aircraft too much and joined Aurora Flight Sciences as an aircraft designer and has been there for the past couple of years.

Tuesday, September 10, 2:00 p.m.
NASA Ames Research Center, Bldg N258, Room 127

Visitors to Ames will require a visitor badge.
Please contact Carl Russell ( to obtain a visitor badge.
Non-US person visitors: please contact Carl Russell ASAP, and we will do our best to accommodate you.

San Mateo PAL visit, 8/12/19

The San Mateo County Police Activities League visited NASA Ames Research Center on Monday, August 12, 2019. This visit was hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Vertical Flight Society. The group 20+ young students arrived at Ames in the morning and visited the 80- by 120-Foot Wind Tunnel. They were then greeted with donuts and SunnyD at Arnold Park before heading over to the Roverscape. The Roverscape is where engineers can test drive potential mars rovers. The group then got to tour the Fluid Mechanics Lab, where they saw some of the smaller wind tunnels. Next was Future Flight Central, followed by the Titan Rocket Display and the Space Shuttle Model. The group of young students asked several intriguing questions and were an absolute joy to host.

Dr. Robert Ormiston presents the recently published Figures of Merit and Moffett Field History Museum visit

Celebrate the reminisces of many Army and NASA rotorheads, past and present, and VFS SFBAC members as well as

Dr. Robert Ormiston*

presents the recently published

Figures of Merit

Robert A. Ormiston and Irving C. Statler (Editors)

*Special guest presenters will also be included as time permits

Wednesday, August 28th from 11:00 – 12:00 in Building 3

Followed by admission to the Moffett Field History Museum with lunch from Chipotle.

FREE for VFS members ($10 for non-members)!

Please RSVP to Ms. Haley Cummings at by Monday, August 26th.

Ice Cream Social and Networking at Chase Park

Social Event

Come and cool off with some ice cream provided by the VFS SFBAC and catch up with colleagues or meet new ones! We’ll soon be saying good bye to this year’s group of NASA/Army summer interns, and we’re encouraging them to come out to this event and chat with folks in the SFBAC to get perspectives on what professional life is like working in the area of vertical lift.

Thursday, August 1 at 3:30pm
Chase Park, Ames Research Center

Note that this event is in the NASA Research Park, so visitor passes are not required; however, a government-issued ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.) is required for all visitors to the Research Park, including vehicle passengers.
Non-US (Citizen or Permanent Resident) visitors: you will need an international driver’s license if you will be driving yourself into the Research Park. If you do not have an international driver’s license, you may ride with a US Citizen or Permanent Resident, but will still need to show a gov’t issued ID (e.g., passport) to the guards at the gate.