AE Aero Capstone: SPEAR

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By Vee Glessner, Chief Copy Editor

AE Aero capstone team “SPEAR” (Strike Precision Elude Attack Reconnaissance) is developing a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) aircraft called the Night Owl, an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), which provides surveillance and strike capabilities. Their aircraft design is a stealthy flying wing engineered to hide from enemy radar, even in heavily defended airspace. 

The flying wing design allows for a flight envelope of 24 hours at a speed of 400 knots and an altitude of 45,000 feet. It also has a payload capacity of 10,000 lbs and 20,000 lbs of ordnance (artillery). SPEAR designed the structure for maximum strength, loading capability, and stealth.

According to team lead Tom Winship, COVID did not substantially affect the team: “We all wanted to work efficiently as possible and still deliver on time,” he says. However, their progress has not come without its own difficulties. “A flying wing is a complicated piece of engineering and we are just scratching the surface of the design and test challenges,” says Winship. In the Aero curriculum, the team members were taught stability and control of a conventional aircraft, but found that a flying wing with no vertical tails is a very different aerodynamics problem.

The team is proud of the way they met their original goals and didn’t change course when things got difficult. “Our team didn’t back down to find an easier solution; we worked within our design parameters and found a way to solve the current problem,” says Winship.

Despite the complex and unique geometry, the team soared through the fabrication phase. “We have our wind tunnel models all finished and are ready for testing in the wind tunnel,” says Winship. “Our team is extremely lucky to be in the wind tunnel as undergraduates.”

SPEAR would like to acknowledge Dr. Morris, Dr. Dorfling, Dr. Mangum, Dr. Haven and Dr. Bennett for their support. Winship says the team is “excited to finish this project and use what we learned from our challenges in the aerospace industry.”

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