AIAA 2021-2022 Undergraduate Responsive Aerial Fire Fighting Aircraft; A Socio-technological Understanding of NASA Transferring Technology to Society

Huynh, Aaron, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Quinlan, Jesse, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

New technology affects society while simultaneously being affected by society. Climate change is an ever-growing issue and wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense. To combat this global crisis, the technical research project seeks to design a firefighting aircraft that will improve upon the current firefighting aircraft arsenal because the current aircraft are mostly repurposed commercial or military airframes so there are inefficiencies that are created due to the difference in design mission requirements. The STS research paper seeks to analyze and understand the societal effects of technology being transferred to society. During the process of designing a firefighting aircraft with my capstone design group, we had to use a multitude of open source programs coming from NASA and this got me interested in the impact that NASA has on society through the transfer of technology.
The technical report showcases the design of a firefighting aircraft that can improve the current arsenal of firefighting aircraft by being more efficient and effective. The current firefighting aircraft are not as efficient as a firefighting aircraft that is specifically designed to firefight could be due to the differences in design mission requirements. A firefighting aircraft wants to be able to carry large payloads and be able to drop this payload at a slow speed and at a low altitude while also being able to dash at high speeds in between drops. Commercial aircraft and military aircraft do not have missions that even remotely resemble this type of mission. This aircraft was designed using a multitude of different software such as VSPAERO and FLOPS to perform trade studies that guided our design choices.
As a group, we were able to finalize a design that took inspiration from some current aircraft designs while adding our own modifications based on the mission requirements and the results from the trade studies. The design is capable of meeting every requirement provided by the proposal as well as being able to meet some optional criteria. The design was only completed to a proof-of-concept phase so no physical model has been made.
Since I noticed that my capstone design group was using technology that was passed down by NASA many years ago, I became interested in other technology that NASA has passed down onto society. The STS research paper sought to answer the question of “What are the socio-technological effects of NASA transferring technology to society and does this technology get impacted by society?”. I used Social Construction of Technology theory from Pinch and Bijker as a framework to model and understand the different groups that can impact NASA technology being transferred to society. The research paper was created using a collection of articles, research papers, and websites.
With the creation of programs within NASA such as the NASA Technology Transfer Program, it is easier than ever to see the types of technology that NASA is opening up to society. It is then up to engineers to use these ideas from NASA to create technology for society. These engineers will need to interact with multiple groups that will all be impacting the technology. The analysis using the framework of Social Construction of Technology theory highlighted that while NASA is doing society a huge favor by passing down their technology, the engineers who are meant to design technology using the NASA technology are being affected by society and this in turn shapes what kind of technology is developed from the transfer. This research paper succeeded in providing a deeper understanding of the relationships involved in the transfer of technology from NASA.
There will always be new technology being developed and this technology is expected to be introduced to society to advance society as whole. The effects of the introduction of new technology into society will always vary with who is involved as well as the type of technology. The transfer of technology from NASA is complex and should be understood as a social construction.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
fire fighting, aircraft, social construction of technology, NASA

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Technical Advisor: Jesse Quinlan
STS Advisor Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: LeeYung Chang, Andreas Damm, Matteo Harris, Del Irving, Christopher Kwon, Jason Le, Andrew Wheatley

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