Aircraft Stability and Control

Dr. Matthias Heller is Expert Advisor “Flight Mechanics” of Airbus Defence and Space and responsible for the Flight Dynamics Clearance Recommendations for the Tornado Aircraft and a TUM-IAS Rudolf Diesel Industry Fellow.

The focus of the three-year fellowship was to investigate new techniques in the field of Dynamics, Performance, Stability and Control of Innovative Autonomous Flight Systems by synergizing the dedicated expertise of Airbus Defence and Space concerning dynamics and control of autonomous flying vehicles and the know-how of the TUM Institute of Flight System Dynamics (FSD), which hosted the Focus Group.

With the advent of miniaturized sensors, actuators and computer systems along with advances in propulsion efficiency (fossil and electrical) and energy storage, the vision of autonomously flying vehicles as valuable assets for a broad range of appli-cations has come closer to reality. Due to the absence of a human pilot on board, many limitations related to weight, dimensions, load factors, etc. vanish and hence new degrees of freedom for configuration designs arise compared to conventional approaches that may be utilized to optimize the mission performance. In recent years, many highly visible successes in flight demonstrations conducted by universities, research institutions and industry have made the impression that such autonomous systems have already matured to an applicable level. However this perception is misleading. Although being very illustrative, most of the demonstrated approaches lead to a dead-end as they have been developed tailored to a specific function (mainly by institutions not coming from an aerospace background) and not to satisfy the rigid requirements to safety, accuracy, reliability and integrity which are usual in the aerospace business. If an unmanned flying system is to be used in normal (civil) airspace – above humans, in urban or populated areas and in the same controlled airspace as manned aircraft, that are particularly those aspects that matter. It is a key intention of the Fellowship to account especially for those issues which have often been neglected in fundamental research but represent the basis for real industrial application of unmanned flying systems – specifically for civil applications. The research is not to be limited to conventional configurations. It is rather the aim to develop, implement and demonstrate methods that increase the level of automation in computing and optimizing safety and certification relevant characteristics of autonomous flight systems related to aircraft performance, stability & control and flight control system performance and survivability.

At the Institute of Flight Dynamics the activities on unmanned flying vehicles started few years ago in order to demonstrate the application of modern control theory/algorithms to real flying testbeds and to investigate the potential of Innovative Autonomous Flight Systems. A fruitful research collaboration between Airbus Defence and Space and Institute of Flight System Dynamics was initiated and has been established during the last years comprising Diploma and PhD students active at both the university and company site. This cooperation will be enhanced within the Fellowship particularly in tight teamwork on the UAV project “SAGITTA – Open Innovation” and in expanding its scope to teaching activities of the Institute and in the outreach offer of IAS. It is the core of the Fellowship to merge scientific with engineering excellence and hence, it will be a strong support for the Munich Aerospace lead project “Autonomous Flying” and helps to ensure continuity in the joint research efforts between Munich Aerospace and Airbus Defence and Space.