Estimated reading time 17 minutes, 36 seconds.
NASA has always been a hotbed for all forms of aeronautical research, and it is no coincidence that the developing branch of aviation, eVTOL, would be studied as well. Located at Moffett Field in California, NASA Ames Research Center has been one of the locations where this work is still going on in earnest.
With state-of-the-art facilities, such as the vertical motion simulator (VMS) and the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex (NFAC), the world’s largest wind tunnel recently used by Joby for propeller testing, there is no doubt that the data garnered at this center will help shape eVTOL vehicles and the industry for years to come.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the center, where I spoke to Steve Yoon, chief of the computational physics branch, to get a better appreciation of NASA’s contribution to this emerging ecosystem. The visit would not have been possible without the co-ordination of NASA’s office of communications and VMS lab manager Duc Tran, research scientist and engineer Patricia Ventura Diaz, and aerospace engineer Carlos Malpica, who all took the time to provide some great insight on their work for background for this interview.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Alex Scerri: Steve, can you share your path that brought you to work at NASA Ames?
Steve Yoon: I am an aerospace engineer with a specialty in studying airflow around aircraft with computer simulations. We call this computational fluid dynamics [CFD]. I started working on rotorcraft about 12 years ago by evaluating how to model the airflow around new kinds of rotorcraft, such as the Bell XV-15 tiltrotor (an aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and then flies like an airplane) and coaxial rotors (a configuration that has two…