Into the Lab: Aerospace

Faculty member Gil Crouse and doctoral student Brian Reitz are developing a method to make aerobatic flight by autonomous aircraft possible. Their research explores the limited flight envelope and simple maneuvers unmanned aircraft are currently able to perform on missions. Today, due to the highly nonlinear nature of aerobatic flight, traditional methods of autopilot design are being modified to include a technique that can determine the appropriate control inputs to accomplish each maneuver. Conventional guidance laws for most autopilot settings are based on small changes from a steady-state, trimmed flight condition with a relaxed constraint on the exact flight path, which often create operational challenges for the aircraft. Crouse’s team is looking at how to control an aircraft at speeds near, and even slower than, stall speed — speeds at which aircraft control surfaces are much less effective. Increasing the capabilities of unmanned aircraft could also make automatic recovery from stalls and spins in manned aircraft possible, helping to improve safety. Crouse and Reitz are going beyond traditional research on guidance control laws to construct a test aircraft platform and autopilot hardware they can use to demonstrate the capabilities of their system. They began testing it this spring.

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