Flight testing automation to parameterize unmanned aircraft dynamics

Or D. Dantsker, Simon Yu, Moiz Vahora, Marco Caccamo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In recent years, we have seen an uptrend in the popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) driven by the desire to apply these aircraft to a variety of civilian, commercial, education, government, and military applications. With the rapid increase in UAV application, significant effort has been put forth into research and development, which culminates with flight testing of the vehicle. Flight testing occurs using either a partialscale or a full-scale prototype and includes a series of maneuvers used to measure and verify the aircraft’s aerodynamics and control behavior. Most often, UAVs are manually piloted through at least the initial flight testing stage where flight qualities are recorded and translated into control tuning. This paper describes a flight testing automation process to streamline the parameterization of an unmanned aircraft’s flight dynamics. The developed flight testing automator commands the aircraft through a predetermined, conditional set of motions and states to induce certain maneuver sets, which allow for dynamics to more easily be parameterized. The desired maneuver sets follow the standards and generally accepted practices for full-scale flight testing. Specifically, the maneuvers of interest presented in this paper include: idle descent, stall, phugoid, doublets, and singlets, which provide the basis for determining the aircraft aerodynamics, longitudinal stability, and control effectiveness, respectively. The flight testing automator was implemented and demonstrated using software-in-the-loop simulation, including a comparison with manually-piloted flight, followed by flight testing using a fixed-wing trainer-type UAV. Automating the data collection process, as opposed to the previous status quo of manual piloting, would allow for more efficient aircraft parametrization and modelling by minimizing trial-and-error and, more importantly, reducing the flight time required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Aviation 2019 Forum
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
Number of pages47
ISBN (Print)9781624105890
StatePublished - 2019
EventAIAA Aviation 2019 Forum - Dallas, United States
Duration: Jun 17 2019Jun 21 2019

Publication series

NameAIAA Aviation 2019 Forum


ConferenceAIAA Aviation 2019 Forum
CountryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering

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