Army commissions VIPER lab for advanced vehicle transmissions

Army commissions VIPER lab for advanced vehicle transmissions

December 14, 2020

The U.S. Army will commission its Vehicle Innovative Powertrain Experimental Research laboratory later this month and begin operations in early January.

Researchers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory (ARL), will launch the VIPER lab to deliver transformational knowledge to advance next-generation rotorcraft transmissions.

The Army-unique facility will enable essential research to help Army scientists explore new technologies under simulated flight loads to increase power density, endurance to increase operational reach and payload for future rotorcraft, according to researchers.

“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, who leads propulsion sciences research projects at the laboratory. “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.”

The Army built the research space to support a spectrum of rotorcraft transmission research areas such as drivetrain dynamics analysis, hybrid gears made of steel and composite materials, multiple speed transmissions and survivability studies. A rotorcraft is anything that’s powered with a rotor, like a helicopter, a tiltrotor like the V-22 Osprey, or an unmanned aircraft system.

The facility houses two 1,000-horsepower inputs and a 2,000-horsepower output to absorb the main mass, plus 250 horsepower to absorb the tail rotor.

Emerson said government investment in science and technology activities is critical to continued innovation and invention.

“It’s important that ARL provide this transformational research knowledge to be able to enhance future vertical lift, next generation rotorcraft transmissions and advance the future for drivetrain systems,” Emerson said.

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