Monday, May 11, 2009

Unmanned? Damaged? No Problem

Unmanned? Damaged? No Problem: "

Remember the cool Rockwell Collins video from last year, the one in which they blow most of the right wing off a scale F-18 model in flight, then land the unmanned aircraft safely? Well, the company has just posted a new version of that video, in which it shows what happened when its damage-tolerant flight controls were turned off.

Video: Rockwell Collins

Collins has just got a contract for the next phase of DARPA's damage tolerance program in which it will demonstrate automonous recovery and safe landing after 'more realistic damage' - which, says'the company's controls guru David Vos, means blowing off 'a big fraction of the wing, horizontal tail and vertical tail'. That should be interesting to watch...

I don't pretend to understand completely how it works - after all Vos is the man who brought us the autonomous unicycle, and'control theory'is way over my head - but basically there is outer-loop 'automatic supervisory adaptive control' that returns the aircraft to controlled flight in about a second by using the whole vehicle as an actuator, controlling its orientation to generate the required forces and moments. Then there is inner-loop 'model reference adaptive control,' which recovers baseline performance over about a minute by comparing the damaged aircraft's'responses with a'stored model and increasing the control gains until the two match.

Baffling, I know, but it seems to work.


(Via Ares.)


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