Aerospace engineering launches new airship activity at Texas A&M

Student flying airship in ZachryA new airship activity has been launched this summer in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Rajkumar Pant is collaborating with Dr. Sharath Girimaji, professor in the aerospace engineering department, and Dr. Christian Bruccoleri of the Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) to kick-start research and development activities related to Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) systems at Texas A&M.

LTA systems principally generate lift force by using sufficient volume of a lighter-than-air gas, such as helium. Heavier-Than-Air (HTA) systems, on the other hand, generate lift by a relative motion between the wings or rotor blades and ambient air, consuming a large amount of fuel.

Dr. Pant is an associate professor of aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay where he has set up a laboratory in which student teams design, build and fly airships from scratch. This summer, Texas A&M aerospace engineering students are becoming familiar with the airship operation controls with some indoor flying at the SERC’s facility in the University Services Building.

The pictured aerostat, measuring 5 feet by 11 feet, will next carry a light payload consisting of a camera, wireless transmitter and a smart phone for a simulation of an “operational” mission. Larger airships with real payloads can contribute to a number of missions including disaster response, homeland security and communications relay, to name a few.Airship flying in classroom

Dr. Girimaji said he plans to build a student team program at Texas A&M to contribute to both design curricula on the academic side and research into innovative payloads and high altitude airship operations.

Thirteen high school students participating in the Youth Adventure Program (YAP) were able to catch a first glance of the Texas A&M aerostat at a demonstration in the Zachry Engineering Center July 21. YAP is a series of one-week courses designed to encourage career exploration in fields of interest to gifted and talented students. These students spent the day in the aerospace engineering department learning more about the field and designing and building glider aircraft.

Any students interested in participating in the airship activity can contact Dr. Sharath Girimaji for more details.