System Integration and Operation of a Research Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Johnson, Eric N.
Schrage, Daniel P.
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The use of flight simulation tools to reduce the schedule, risk, and required amount of flight-testing for complex aerospace systems is a well-recognized benefit of these approaches. However, some special challenges arise when one attempts to obtain these benefits for the development and operation of a research Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV) system. Research UAV systems are characterized by the need for continual checkout of experimental software and hardware. Also, flight-testing can be further leveraged by complementing experimental results with flight-test validated simulation results for the same vehicle system. In this paper, flight simulation architectures for system design, integration, and operation of an experimental helicopter-based UAV, are described. The chosen helicopter-based UAV platform (a Yamaha RMax) is well instrumented: differential GPS, an inertial measurement unit, sonar altimetry, and a 3-axis magnetometer. One or two general-purpose flight processors can be utilized. Research flight test results obtained to date, including those completed in conjunction with the DARPA Software Enabled Control program, are summarized.