The desire to fly higher, farther, faster, and more affordably has always been a challenge. One barrier to doing so is flutter, the potentially catastrophic dynamic coupling that can occur between the elastic motion of the aircraft wing structure and the aerodynamic loads acting on it.
In 2005, the Skunk Works® team began research in this area with a new design methodology that led to the Body Freedom Flutter (BFF) research program. Their work proved that flutter behavior can be accurately predicted and addressed through the creation of a new design paradigm of active control. This active control method produced a 75 percent increase in BFF speed, as proven in a series of flight tests.
As a result of that effort, the Air Force Research Laboratory sponsored the Multi-Utility Aeroelastic Demonstrator (MAD) program, which is an entire vehicle system that includes a ground control station trailer with simulation capabilities for flight test rehearsals and a vehicle transportation trailer. Part of this program includes the X-56A Multi-utility Technology Test bed (MUTT), an innovative modular unmanned air vehicle designed to test active flutter suppression and gust load alleviation. The X-56A will test to the edge of the flight envelope in an effort to mature technologies that will lead to more slender, lightweight, high-aspect-ratio wings, resulting in better aircraft performance.