Unmanned Air Systems (UAS)

Important work in airworthiness and autonomous control to support the safe growth of the UAS industry in all sectors.

The development and assessment of Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) is a relatively new activity for many organizations. For Systems Technology, on the other hand, work with these remotely piloted and autonomous vehicles has been an ongoing activity for decades.

Our earliest work took place in the 1960’s and involved primarily target drones and included the RP-76D, RP-78, and MQM-74A. Specific tasks included assessments of steady state rolling velocity, analysis of the flight control systems, and impact of high-g turns on the dynamic modes. Later in the 1980’s, Systems Technology performed similar vehicle dynamics and flight control system analysis work on the AGM-136A Tacit Rainbow, an air launch system designed to support the destruction of enemy air defense systems.

Quetzalcoatlus Northropi, the giant pterodactyl

Teaming with Aerovironment, Systems Technology developed the flight control system for the Quetzalcoatlus Northropi, a remotely piloted giant pterodactyl replica built for the Smithsonian Institute’s IMAX movie “On the Wing.” Keeping with the objective of emulating the conjectured appearance and modus operandi of the creature from 140 million years ago, several unusual control loops were evolved: wing sweep used to trim and stabilize the pitch axis, active steering of the strake-wing-like head and beak for directional stability, upward extension of the leading edge claws for yaw damping (the claw damper), and warping of the wings for roll control. This was the first time wing sweep was ever used to control pitch motion.

Current UAS engineering and consulting services

More recently, Systems Technology has provided advanced ground handling models, audits of dynamic models and corresponding flight controllers, development of station keeping control laws for a high altitude airship, and aeroservoelastic design and analysis for the X-56A Multi-utility Aeroelastic Demonstrator. STI has also worked on new sensor systems for control of UAS based on strain sensor arrays.

Systems Technology is available to support UAS programs, including simulation and flight test support, evaluation of requirements as part of a certification effort, the selection of requirements to use as part of a design effort, and the development of new requirements as needed for new systems.

Varied UAS programs include the study of aeroelastic wings with the X-56A and gesture recognition based deck handling systems for future variants of the X-47B. We also developed the flight control system for a remotely piloted giant pterodactyl replica in the Smithsonian’s IMAX movie “On the Wing.”