STI Paper No. 845

Toward Developing MTEs for Multirotor sUAS in Controlled Wind Conditions (STI Paper Series)

Unmanned aircraft systems are quickly becoming a ubiquitous presence in military and civilian life. Developers are demanding they be allowed in the National Airspace System. This includes myriad small unmanned aircraft systems that seek to use the uncontrolled airspace at altitudes below 500 ft. Methods to verify, validate, and certify these aircraft for safe introduction into the airspace, especially for beyond line of sight operations, as well as the communication infrastructure to support them are slow to develop for a number of reasons. One such is that little to no experimental data of these aircraft performing well-defined tasks with well-defined requirements is available with which to support the development of these methods and processes. To this end, a study was conducted to support the effort to develop, test, and validate tasks for small unmanned aircraft systems in off-nominal conditions.

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This study focused on:

  • Multirotor aircraft free flying four defined tasks—precision hover, lateral sidestep, vertical reposition, and landing—in controlled wind conditions generated in the NASA Langley Research Center 14x22-ft subsonic wind tunnel
  • Two pilots flew two multirotor aircraft through a series of tasks at constant windspeeds ranging from 0 mph to 25 mph
  • Performance assessments signaled that the pilots could fly the tasks and meet most performance requirements
  • Increased windspeed resulted in performance degradation as expected
  • Pilot feedback suggested that the course layout can be improved to facilitate longitudinal visual cueing
  • Results indicated that the foundation of these tasks and the process by which they were tested in off-nominal conditions is sound

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