Career Profile- Subscale UAS engineer/pilot Robert “Red” Jensen- Operations Engineering Branch

Career Profile- Subscale UAS engineer/pilot Robert “Red” Jensen- Operations Engineering Branch


[ Jet engine revving up ] [ Sonic boom ] [ Music/Radio chatter ] [ Radio chatter ]>>Ok glider RC is up.>>Good for engine start.>>Engine start. [ Music ]>>I’m an airplane geek. I grew up reading
about NACA and NASA and Edwards Air Force
Base, Rogers Dry Lake. I think it’s beautiful, I
love the arid, dry landscape. I love the flyable weather
300 plus days a year.>>How’s the tow line look? Come on back, Derek, I’m having a
hard time seeing it.>>I have no degree. I learned my craft from on the
job training and self-education. My name is Red Jensen
and I’m the Chief Pilot with the Armstrong Flight
Research Center for small UAS. I work in the model lab day to
day using sub scale aircraft. We use those for a variety
of reasons to test things like new technology which
could be hardware or software, or even a completely
new vehicle.>>Coming through, guys This morning is something you
don’t get to see too often. This is the first flight
of a brand new airplane so that also means it’s
a lot more dangerous than it normally would be. Especially for the first
several flights be on your feet, not sitting down, probably between the cars is a
great place until we prove that it’s air worthy and
everything is going to go fine. [ Music ] 3, 2, 1, release. [ Wind/Music/Background noise ] Heads up guys.>>Essentially what my job entails
is making sure that the fleet of subscale aircraft we have
here at Armstrong are capable of flight, are safe and are
ready to support the center for the various needs.>>We’re not supposed to
break above 30 knots for some structural issues.>>Right.>>So the trick is to touch
down, roll the throttle…>>Each one of the
aircraft supports a variety of different programs. Any one program at any time
could have a certain set of milestones they
need to hit and we need to make sure that can happen. So we support the buildup, the
integration and the execution of the actual flights. [ Subscale aircraft taking off ]>>I’m part fabricator,
I’m part engineer, I’m part integrator
and I’m flight crew. So I have to manage all of those
elements sort of all in one.>>We could almost
use that, not quite.>>Yeah except we’re
going to have to angle it.>>A typical day is you come
in and I usually make a list of the things that we want to accomplish during the
week and then also daily. On non-fly days we
have ongoing projects, things that need maintenance.>>Basically case 5.>>Case 5 yeah.>>Alright so is that
our max design intent? Is that what that is now?>>I work on drawings for layups and engineering calculations
for load. We are setting up,
mounting components, testing them, getting
ready to fly.>>Often I have to
make a one-off part. I also have the capability
to 3D print parts in house, which has been a blessing
because it allows me to design something
in the morning, build it in the afternoon and
then install it in the evening, it’s really that quick. [ Music/Background talking ]>>Flight day usually
starts two days before. I don’t like to rush,
I want to make sure that we don’t miss anything
because on a flight day if you do miss something well
that’s just making everybody wait and that’s not cool. If the system hasn’t
flown in a while, or it’s got a new
component in it we do a CST, which is a combined systems test
where we turn everything on just like in flight environment,
including starting the engine if applicable, run it and do
all of these ground tests just like we were going to go fly and
make sure that everything works and plays nice together. That way when we get
out on the lake bed to fly there’s no surprises. [ propeller turning ] [ Background talking ]>>So when that’s done let’s say
on a Monday we finish our CST, Tuesday is prep and loading
day where we’ll maintenance all of the batteries, make sure
the generator has gas in it, make all of the arrangements
for frequencies and whatever else we might
need on the lake bed. Load up the vehicles and be
prepared for the next day. [ Music ] The third day, flight
day, usually starts at 6 am in the model lab. I like to get there
again a little bit early, go over my checklist, make
sure I have everything loaded, everything is prepped
and ready to go. I typically like to be airborne
by 9 for weather reasons and that gives us the
best chance to fly as much as we need throughout the day.>>It’s airborne. A little bit of right
aileron trim, a little up elevator trim,
here comes a flap check, 1 notch, no pitch change, 2 notches, very nice, no
pitch change, flap fall. [ Radio chatter ]>>…first
stall is clean.>>28>>Keep them coming, Clue [ Radio chatter ] Alright I’m going to start
setting up for an approach.>>And we’re down. [ Music ]>>The largest project
that we’re working on right now is the
T-GALS concept which is the towed glider
air launch to orbit concept where we use a glider to
carry a rocket launch vehicle up to an altitude,
release that rocket and then it will
head on into space. The idea is cheaper cost
per pound launches to orbit. So by air launching the launch
vehicle, we gain somewhere in the order of 50% performance
increase to get the same amount of payload into orbit. We have built and are flying
a quarter scale, roughly, model that eventually could turn into a hundred foot wingspan
full scale X plane type program. Another program that we’ve been
working on is called PRANDTL. PRANDTL is looking at a
new way to design a wing to reduce induced drag. Induced drag is the
by-product of creating lift. So when you create
lift you create drag. This particular wing uses
twist to reduce that drag at the wing tips and
manipulate that for control.>>3, 2, 1, release.>>It has huge long
range potential benefits. Things like airliners
where you see the winglet on every air liner that
increases efficiency. PRANDTL looks to do
much of the same thing but even on a bigger scale. Flight days they can be an
hour, they can be six hours, just depends on what
we’re doing. We’ll bring everything back to
the lab, unload what we need to unload and then gather any
data that’s necessary and send that out to the proper folks. I don’t do too much
of the data analyzing but I definitely
facilitate the downloading and we certainly look at
the data but that’s left to other folks on their
respective projects to analyze the data. My job is to gather the data,
make sure the data is good, and then disseminate it. I love to design. I design a lot of
my own aircraft and you just simply can’t do
that easily in a manned world. Timeline, cost, risk, all of
those things play a factor. With subscale aircraft you can
do almost anything you want without much risk and you
can realize those gains very quickly. [ Subscale aircraft taking off ]>>Being that we’re not
putting out a product, we don’t have a product at the
end of the day that we have to sell; that gives us a lot
more latitude to research things that maybe a for profit company
wouldn’t bother to research. [ aircraft flying ]>>You know, the winglet
may not have come around if it hadn’t
have been for NASA. Some guy looking for a few
percent advantage looked into it and figured it out. Dale Reed was a pioneer
of using subscale aircraft and he was sort looked as sort
of a crack pot around here. He got the idea of a cone shape
as a re-entry type vehicle, cut it in half into
the half cone with is the classic lifting
body shape that we know now and those early trials led
directly to the space shuttle. So we look into sometimes
the minutiae of how and why things work that
doesn’t necessarily make sense for a for profit company. Everything that we do
benefits the public, nothing is held back,
everything is published and available for anyone to use. NASA is a fantastic
environment to work in. It’s just being part of an
R & D environment and part of something that maybe someday
somebody else might remember that was something cool
and I can say “oh,” you know to my grandkids, “oh
yeah I worked on that” that would be pretty cool. I would probably be unhappy
sitting behind a desk somewhere if I wasn’t flying airplanes. [ Music/Wind ] [ Glider scraping along ground ]>>I really enjoy working
here a lot.

Eugene Islam

9 thoughts on “Career Profile- Subscale UAS engineer/pilot Robert “Red” Jensen- Operations Engineering Branch

  1. Ok, He can stay.  You have to love it,,you just can't like it once in awhile and then get bored and move on.  The average joe CAN spot a savant in the field,,I give you Red Jensen.  Neat after story on the winglet tips and how they came to be,,I remember when that happened.  Ok Nasa,,More of this.  Hold no video back.   We,,as in the average joe,,need a every 2 week update on the flying proof of concept lab that Red works in.  Wish I was flying right now.

  2. If everything is public info how can one get JUST BASIC plans for the prandel wing. Wing cord twist cg MAC. basic info

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