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Demonstration of Autonomous Differential Throttle-based Flight Control for Aircraft with Distributed Electric Propulsion

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: 80NSSC18C0216
Agency Tracking Number: 170153
Amount: $749,145.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: T15
Solicitation Number: STTR_17_P2
Solicitation Year: 2017
Award Year: 2018
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2018-09-20
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-09-19
Small Business Information
3580 Sueldo St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401-7338
United States
DUNS: 149341534
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Jeffrey Freeman
 (805) 275-1053
Business Contact
 Andrew Gibson
Phone: (805) 704-1865
Research Institution
 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
601 E John Street
Champaign, IL 00000-0000
United States

 Federally Funded R&D Center (FFRDC)

A series of RDT&E activities is proposed to create and demonstrate a reconfigurable, autonomous flight controller for the Aircraft for Distributed Electric Propulsion Throttle-based Flight Control (ADEPT-FC) which was designed and built in Phase I, a 33 lb remote controlled aircraft featuring eight overwing electric ducted fans (EDFs) distributed spanwise along the wing’s trailing edge. The proposed study will be the first to show that a complete and accurate description of the propulsion airframe integration (PAI) effects enables autonomous flight of a DEP aircraft using a standard approach to model-based flight control. A combination of modeling & 6DoF dynamic simulation leveraging OpenVSP/VSPAERO, wind-tunnel and hardware-in-the-loop (HITL) ground testing, and system identification (SysID) flight testing will be completed to support the design of the autonomous controller. The resultant controller will be demonstrated in flight on the ADEPT-FC research aircraft at multiple stages of development, including trim flight with uniform and asymmetric throttle mixing as well as DEP system fault tolerance through autonomous controller reconfiguration. Additional research products from the study will include an empirically-derived body of knowledge pertaining to PAI for DEP aircraft, a “DEP Array” custom component for OpenVSP, and VSPAERO validation artifacts to characterize the tool’s ability to predict PAI behaviors, all of which are intended to be disseminated open source to the aerospace community. Autonomous flight control of DEP aircraft with strong PAI effects is one piece of a greater integrated autonomous controller (IAC) envisioned for hybrid electric distributed propulsion (HEDP) aircraft, a technology foreseen by ESAero to enable substantial risk probability and criticality reduction, improved energy efficiency, and reduced pilot workload.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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