ESAero will develop an Integrated Autonomous Controller (IAC) with Health State Awareness (HSA) which will be capable of detecting, characterizing, and adapting to pre-critical faulty behavior in a distributed electric propulsion system. The proposed system includes a Pixhawk autopilot with Ardupilot software that will be customized with propulsor health state variables and relevant autonomous directives such as limiting the throttle of an at-risk propulsor, a Jetson TX2 module embedded with ESAero’s proprietary fault detection algorithm, and data acquisition system with a suite of low-cost sensors that are to be installed throughout the aircraft. The IAC will be installed on an existing custom hexacopter test platform owned by ESAero and demonstrated in flight with simulated fault events at ESAero’s flight test facility in Oceano, CA. With generality as a key objective of the design, the IAC should be suitable for integration on a wide variety of aircraft requiring only minor modification. The IAC is expected to be a key enabling technology to safer operation of aircraft during flight testing and in-service use. Secondary benefits include Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) and more efficient operation of hybrid electric propulsion systems.
An Integrated Autonomous Controller (IAC) with health state awareness (HSA) will be useful for flight testing at NASA by increasing system level health awareness. The algorithm itself is agnostic to the data type being analyzed and thus its applicability is not limited to specific system architectures. Consideration for data bus agnosticism will allow the device to interface with a wide variety of command and control system data architectures including ethernet, etherCAT, CAN bus, and more.
HE/AE/DEP systems are becoming more popular in flight research (X-57) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and sUAS. This increase in interest, design, and integration has raised serious questions of safety and reliability for complex vehicle architectures that are expected to operate in dense urban environments. The ability to implement the proposed IAC with HSA will increase safety of the vehicle operating in environments where catastrophic failure results in high order damage and loss of life.