Intelligent Flight Control Systems – Testing

ambience: Radio Communication, F15 Jet noise

Trying out a new maneuver at 30,000 ft? Well, it’s all in a days work if you’re a test pilot. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jim Smolka is an aerospace research pilot at Dryden Flight Research Center. He recently tested the Intelligent Flight Control System, which uses a network of sensors to react and respond to any loss of airplane maneuverability. A new technology called neural network software automatically adjusts flaps and rudders to counteract the effect of any system failures.

“The thing about neural network software, and with any kind of new software there’s always a little anticipation about what’s going to happen, because the answers, even though we do a lot of testing, this is the first time we’ve flown this kind of software, so there’s a little bit of unknown in terms of exactly how the software’s going to behave. Because it’s not the kind of software that we’re traditionally used to where you put some kind of a signal in and you expect to get a certain signal out. This software basically makes decisions. And so it can put out a number of different answers, depending on what inputs it gets. And so that was a big unknown for the project also.”

So, how has the system handled problems in flight?

“We actually tested two different failures. One was a failure which affected the basic stability of the airplane. The other one was a jammed horizontal tail control surface. And we jammed one of them so that the airplane would want to pitch and roll, if this software wasn’t present. But because of this software, the airplane basically there’d be a small perturbation, if you will, a bump, that the pilot would feel, and then after that the airplane flew pretty much normally.”

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Intelligent Flight Control Systems - Testing

Trying out a new system at 30,000 feet is all in a days work for a test pilot.
Air Date:06/13/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience: Radio Communication, F15 Jet noise

Trying out a new maneuver at 30,000 ft? Well, it’s all in a days work if you’re a test pilot. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jim Smolka is an aerospace research pilot at Dryden Flight Research Center. He recently tested the Intelligent Flight Control System, which uses a network of sensors to react and respond to any loss of airplane maneuverability. A new technology called neural network software automatically adjusts flaps and rudders to counteract the effect of any system failures.

“The thing about neural network software, and with any kind of new software there’s always a little anticipation about what’s going to happen, because the answers, even though we do a lot of testing, this is the first time we've flown this kind of software, so there’s a little bit of unknown in terms of exactly how the software's going to behave. Because it's not the kind of software that we're traditionally used to where you put some kind of a signal in and you expect to get a certain signal out. This software basically makes decisions. And so it can put out a number of different answers, depending on what inputs it gets. And so that was a big unknown for the project also.”

So, how has the system handled problems in flight?

“We actually tested two different failures. One was a failure which affected the basic stability of the airplane. The other one was a jammed horizontal tail control surface. And we jammed one of them so that the airplane would want to pitch and roll, if this software wasn't present. But because of this software, the airplane basically there'd be a small perturbation, if you will, a bump, that the pilot would feel, and then after that the airplane flew pretty much normally.”

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.

music