Prof. James Hubbard Awarded AFOSR Grant

Dr. James E. Hubbard, Jr., NIA Langley Distinguished Professor from the University of Maryland and founder of the Morpheus Laboratory, has been awarded the first year of a multi-year grant by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Grant entitled; “Design,Fabrication and Testing of a Passively Morphing Ornithopter Wing for Increased Lift and Agility”. The grant represents a potential 3 year effort valued at $711,000.

Under the contract Morpheus Lab, in collaboration with Dr. Mary Frecker of the Engineering Design & Optimization Group at Penn State University, will be developing a purely passive means of increasing the range and endurance of flapping wing UAVs by structural modifications which significantly increase platform lift and thrust metrics without any subsequent increase in energetics or power requirements. Specifically, they will develop innovative concepts for morphing ornithopter wings, develop models and simulations of aeroelastic coupling in these wings, build prototype vehicles, and conduct experiments to measure wing thrust and power.

Professor Hubbard, Jr. is recognized world-wide as an expert the control of Distributed Parameter Systems and Smart Materials and Structure applications. He has more than 18 U.S. Patents in the field. The University of Maryland’s Morpheus Lab located at the National Institute of Aerospace is conducting extensive research into flapping wing flight. Two years ago Morpheus Lab created a flapping wing research initiative with the ultimate goal of designing and building fully autonomous, efficient, and agile flapping wing vehicles capable of unassisted take-off, hover, perching, and soaring in addition to normal forward flight. Recently the Air Force formally stated its interest in Flapping Wing UAV’s with this press release:

The Dayton (OH) Daily News (10/29, Nolan) reports, "Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) scientists have created a micro air vehicle team with goals of demonstrating the concept of a bird-sized UAV by 2015 and a bug-sized one by 2020." Doug Blake, deputy director of the laboratory's air vehicles directorate, reportedly said that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has "an indoor test flight facility operating to support the development effort ... They hope to have additional facilities operating by the end of 2009." These UAVs would have flapping wings that "would give them more stability to fly through cross winds they could encounter when flying between buildings in a city, said Joe Sciabica, the AFRL's executive director."

About NIA

NIA is a non-profit research and graduate education institute headquartered in Hampton, VA. It was formed in 2002 by a consortium of research universities to ensure a national capability to support NASA's mission by expanding collaboration with academia and leveraging expertise inside and outside NASA. NIA performs research in a broad range of disciplines including space exploration, systems engineering, nanoscale materials science, flight systems, aerodynamics, air traffic management, aviation safety, planetary and space science, and global climate change. The Institute's graduate program offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the fields of engineering and science through its university partners: Georgia Tech, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, and the College of William & Mary.

More information about the National Institute of Aerospace is available at

Published December 7, 2009