Farnborough Air Show

Adaptive flight controls boost aviation safety

 - July 16, 2008, 10:30 AM

A revolution in the progress of aviation could result from Rockwell Collins’ recent acquisition of Athena Technologies. Athena Technologies said it is convinced that the time has arrived for completely safe operation of unmanned parcel-carrying aircraft.
Athena bases its prediction on a successful flight test in which it ejected almost 60 percent of the right wing on an F/A-18 subscale model without an ensuing disaster.

Drawing on expertise from its new acquisition, Rockwell Collins’ automatic supervisory adaptive control (ASAC) technology reacted to the airplane’s new configuration, automatically regained baseline performance, continued the flight and then autonomously landed using internal INS/GPS reference only. The flight test with the unmanned subscale F/A-18 followed a similar but no less successful drastic DARPA-sponsored demonstration last year in which it ejected nearly half of the right wing to simulate battle damage.

Rockwell Collins has demonstrated a capability that could be applicable to all military aircraft operating in combat environments and to commercial, business and general aviation for full flight automation and backup. For Athena Technologies, the “see and be seen” issue for UAVs operating in controlled airspace is no longer an issue. As Dr. David Vos, senior director of Control Technologies at Rockwell Collins, declared, “When applied to both manned and unmanned aircraft, damage tolerance is a key technology that can facilitate the convergence of manned and unmanned aircraft in increasingly crowded controlled airspace; but more importantly, the solution can save lives.”