Rotorcraft Engineering

Rotorcraft Engineering

The University is engaged in a wide range of research and educational activities related to vertical flight technology. In 1996, led by faculty in the aerospace engineering department, a Penn State team was competitively awarded one of the three Rotorcraft Centers of Excellence (RCOE) by the newly formed National Rotorcraft Technology Center (NRTC).

Since that time, Penn State rotorcraft research and graduate student enrollment has grown tenfold, having been competitively awarded RCOE and Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence (VLRCOE) Cooperative agreements from the NRTC in 2001, 2006, 2011, and most recently in 2016.

Penn State also receives strong support from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, NAVAIR, US Army Research Office, AATD, AED, NASA (Ames, Glenn and Langley Research Centers), and the Vertical Lift Consortium (formerly RITA and CRI). Approximately one-third of our funding is competitively awarded from DoD 6.2 or industry IRAD programs.

Approximately 60 full-time graduate students (50% Ph.D., 50% M.S., and 80% U.S. citizens or permanent residents) are working on $5.5M per year (in 2015) in projects related to dynamics, aerodynamics, acoustics, flight control and simulation, icing, HUMS, and advanced design of rotary-wing vehicles. Drivetrain technologies, smart structures, advanced materials, active control of noise and vibration, and high-performance computing are also among our technical thrust areas.

Our faculty also collaborate with faculty and students in the mechanical engineering, engineering science and mechanics, and materials science departments. Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory (ARL), a U.S. Navy UARC with 300 resident Ph.D.-level research scientists and another 900 engineering and support staff, has also become a strong contributor to rotorcraft research at the 6.1-6.4 DoD levels. ARL also executes direct industry IRAD programs in the vertical flight arena. ARL researchers are also actively engaged in rotorcraft CFD, drivetrain, crashworthiness and Condition-Based-Maintenance projects. ARL houses the Institute for Manufacturing and Sustainment Technologies (iMAST), which is a U.S. Navy Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence. Within iMAST are mechanical drivetrain, high energy processing, materials science, and repair technology research groups.

Penn State’s VLRCOE has a long tradition of engagement with several trusted SBIR companies (e.g., INVERCON, KCF Technologies, ART, Continuum Dynamics, etc.). Penn State also has a large, active, and enthusiastic student chapter of the American Helicopter Society (AHS International), and is engaged in a number of STEM and educational outreach activities.

Additionally, the aerospace engineering department has offered an annual short course on rotorcraft technologies since 1967. Full semester courses on rotorcraft aerodynamics, rotorcraft stability and control, rotorcraft dynamic, and rotorcraft design are also regularly offered within the department.

Key Faculty:

Research Projects (2001 - present):

  • Unsteady airfoil design methods
  • Rotor hub flow physics for drag reduction
  • Icing physics, modeling, detection
  • Autonomous multi-lift system
  • Nano-tailored composites for improved toughness and thermal conductivity
  • Aeroelastically tailored wing extensions and winglets for Large Civil Tiltrotors
  • Control redundancy on compound rotorcraft for performance, HQ, and survivability
  • Physics of active rotors for performance and acoustics
  • Comprehensive analysis of gearbox loss of lubrication
  • Health monitoring for joints in composite structures
  • Advanced response types / cueing systems for naval operations
  • Autonomous shipboard take-off and landing
  • Durability Evaluation of Single Crystal Energy Harvesters
  • Guided Wave Sensors for Rotor Blade Damage Detection
  • Evaluation of Pericyclic Transmission Concepts
  • Modeling of Rotor Blade Ultrasonic Deicing and Experimental Comparison with Electrothermal Ice Protection Systems
  • Time Frequency Transforms and Symbolic Dynamic Filtering for Rotor Stability Identification
  • Cable Angle Feedback for Active External Load Control
  • Mechanical Performance of Nanoreinforced Composites for Rotorcraft Applications - Advanced Materials TAJI
  • Aided/Automated Flare and Landing during Autorotation
  • Rotor Hub CFD Computations
  • Analysis and Characterization of Textile-Based Crashworthy Payload Restraint Systems
  • Centrifugally Driven Pneumatic Actuators for Active Rotors
  • Novel Structural Health Monitoring Scheme for Glass-Fiber Composites using Nanofillers
  • Innovative Energy Absorbers Based on Composite Tube
  • Flight Test Measurement of Airwake Disturbances for Validation of Virtual Dynamic Interface Simulations
  • Autonomous UAV Aerodynamic Performance Analysis for the Near-Ship Environment Phase II.5 Navy STTR - (CRAFT-Tech)
  • Autonomous Control Modes and Optimized Path Guidance for Shipboard Landing in High Sea States
  • Pilot-in-the-Loop CFD Method Development
  • Acoustically Tailored Panels for Low Cabin Noise
  • High Fidelity CFD Analysis and Validation of Rotorcraft Gear Box Aerodynamics
  • Development of Nanoparticle-Enhanced Towpreg for Filament Wound Composites
  • A Multi-Functional Ultrasonic Sensor System for Composite Rotor Blade Ice Protection, Ice Sensing, and Structural Health Monitoring (SBIR with FBS Inc)
  • Innovative Methods for Real-Time Damage Alleviation (SBIR with Technical Data Associates)
  • MQ-8B VTUAV/Fire Scout Structural Dynamics Testing Support
  • Learning from Plants -- Biologically-Inspired Multi-Functional Active Composites
  • Civil Certification Noise Prediction Tools
  • Analysis of Rotor Startup/Shutdown in Complex Winds
  • Alternate Control Laws for Fly-by-Wire Helicopters
  • Tailboom Vibration Control via F2MC
  • Pericyclic Transmission Design Studies
  • Gearbox Windage Loss Simulation
  • Titanium Hardening Study
  • Dynamic Gear Testing - AATD FARDS program
  • Support for Hub Drag testing – VLRCOE program
  • Ice Accretion to Cascade Flow Configurations of Engine Compressors
  • Conceptualization, Modeling, and Characterization of a CF Driven Multi- State Lead-Lag Bypass Damper
  • Vibration Control via Coupled Fluidic Pitch Links
  • Viscoelectric Devices for Energy Harvesting
  • Deicing systems, Nanocomposites, Multi-Rotor Lift Systems, Structural Health Monitoring – VLRCOE Program Support
  • Evaluating Carbo-Nitrided Pyrowear 675
  • Analysis of Gearbox Loss of Lubrication - VLRCOE task support
  • Simulation Model Validation and Handling Qualities Analysis of the X-49A Compound Helicopter

New Projects (starting in 2016):

  • Fundamental Investigations into Future Low-Drag Single-/ and Co-axial Rotor Hub Systems
  • Advanced Transition and Turbulence Modeling for Rotorcraft CFD Applications
  • Nonlinear Laser Ultrasonics for Reduced Variability in Additive Manufacturing Parts
  • Ice Adhesion Strength Modeling and Mitigation Via Low Surface Roughness Erosion Resistant Coatings for Rotor Blades
  • Seamless Manufacturing of Hybrid-Material Turbines for High Temperature Rotorcraft Propulsion System by Field Assisted Sintering
  • Fidelity Requirements for Ship Airwake Modeling in Dynamic Interface Simulations
  • High Airspeed Carriage of External Loads
  • Load Alleviation Control Design Using High Order Dynamic Models
  • Slung Load State and Parameter Estimation for Autonomous Multi-lift Systems
  • Fundamental Aeroacoustics of Coaxial Helicopter Rotors
  • Enhanced Damping for High-Speed Rigid Rotors via Tailored Hybrid Nanocomposites and Flexible Fluidic Matrix Composite Blade Dampers
  • Experimental and Computational Analysis of Thermal and Dynamic Performance of Hybrid Gears Under Normal and Loss-of-Lubrication Operation
  • Experimental Validation, Noise and Dynamic Analysis and Variable Speed Attributes of High Power Density Pericyclic Transmission
  • Active Clutch Engagement Control and Maneuver-Assisted Shifting for Two-Speed Rotorcraft Transmissions


The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Our undergraduate program is ranked 15th and our graduate programs are ranked 15th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

Department of Aerospace Engineering

229 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2569