by Jane Stoyle Welch
Published December 29, 2020
Frank Lagor, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is one of 36 scientists around the country to receive funding from the competitive U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Program (YIP).
Lagor will use the $450,000 award to study the aerodynamics of small uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones.
Small-scale drone use is becoming increasingly more common, for example, in package delivery, emergency response, and defense reconnaissance, with more applications emerging every day. However, in order expand their use, a better understanding of how the air flow patterns over their wings affect lift is needed.
“Small-scale UAVs are greatly influenced by the unsteady air flow over their wings. This project is important because it may help increase the flight envelope of these vehicles,” says Lagor.
Entitled “Towards Real-Time, 3D Coherent Structure Estimation for Flow Over Finite Wings,” the project seeks to improve the fundamental understanding of data-driven estimation of flow fields, as well as optimal sensor placement to visualize the flow.
“We want to be able to give a reasonably accurate picture of flow patterns, such as vortices, over an aircraft wing using only measurements taken from pressure sensors mounted on the wing's surface,” says Lagor. “This will enable us to see the current positions and strengths of these flow features so that we can predict where they are going to go next.”
The Young Investigator Program award is funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) in association with the Unsteady Aerodynamics and Turbulent Flows Program. It will provide funding for two graduate research assistants, and also benefits an ongoing research collaboration between Lagor and researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.
“Frank’s award from the AFOSR YIP for his novel approach to flow estimation of vortex structures is a tremendous achievement. It recognizes him as an innovator and future leader in his field,” says Francine Battaglia, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “Frank’s work is of pivotal importance to the department and complements on-going efforts related to flow sensing and control, and spacecraft and UAV dynamics.”
The objective of the Young Investigator Program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering. It is open to United States citizens and/or permanent residents’ who are scientists and engineers at U.S. research institutions who received PhD or equivalent degrees in the last seven years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research of military interests.
Lagor’s research interests include unsteady aerodynamics, and the guidance, navigation, and control of robotic systems in complex flow environments. In addition to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, his work is also funded by the National Science Foundation and the Research Foundation of SUNY.
Prior to joining the University at Buffalo in 2018, Lagor was a mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. He received his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland in 2017.