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  • Rockwell's Radical Flight Controls To Go Operational
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 7:40 PM on Aug 24, 2010

    Rockwell Collins showed the latest steps in its development of automatic control systems for UAVs and manned aircraft at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International show in Denver today - and confirmed that it has a contract to put its Automatic Supervisory Adaptive Control (ASAC) system on an operational UAV.

    In 2008, Rockwell demonstrated that ASAC could recover a scale model of an F/A-18 Hornet after 60 per cent of one wing was blown off in flight. In more recent tests unveiled today, the same kind of model landed safely after losing both part of the wing and 30 per cent of the right-hand empennage, and landed - raggedly but intact - with 80 per cent of one wing gone. "Even we didn't think it would fly like that", remarked David Vos, senior director of Rockwell Collins Control Technologies.

    Vos says that the company is not able to identify its operational application but said that "all of you will know it when you see it, and it is a program of record." As with the Hornet model tests, extensive simulation work will be followed by subscale tests in which pieces will be removed from the aircraft.

    Rockwell Collins also showed videos of the model Hornet performing aerobatics - not a hint of a future unmanned Blue Angels but a demonstration of techniques to allow the aircraft to recover from an upset event. ASAC has also been used to guide the aircraft to a dead-stick engine-out landing.

    Survivability of the UAV - an increasing concern about some military planners, who worry that a future adversary will field defenses that render a Predator or Reaper unusable - is "part of the value proposition" for ASAC, Vos says. The ability to recover with major damage will make the UAV harder and more expensive to kill. Also, ASAC-type techniques could allow UAVs to be designed more simply, with fewer mechanical back-up systems.

    Tags: ar99, unmanned, Rockwell Collins, AUVSI, Vos

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