As modern airframe designs become increasingly lightweight with high aspect-ratio wings, aeroservoelastic effects gain prominence in modeling and design considerations. Consequently, aircraft design processes, control design methodologies, and ground/flight-testing procedures need to appropriately trade between passive and actively-controlled structures. Furthermore, the influence of the flight control system on the optimal structural and aerodynamic design needs to be captured in the design process. To address these needs, Systems Technology Inc., in collaboration with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and D.K. Schmidt and Associates, propose to develop a novel control-oriented aircraft Multidisciplinary Analysis & Optimization (MDAO) process and software design tool. This will be achieved by implementing a flight dynamics-oriented model into the MDAO process that can readily provide information about the dynamic behavior (e.g., controllability and observability, bandwidths, modal impulse residues, etc.). This control-oriented information will be used to define performance criteria that will be optimized as part of the MDAO process, thereby resulting in an aircraft that is not only structurally and aerodynamically optimized, but also flight-control optimized. This approach will result in significant cost reduction by avoiding expensive subsequent modifications in both hardware and software to ensure safe, robust behavior.
The principal innovation of enhanced control-oriented MDAO is targeted to flexible aircraft platforms which are relevant to both aircraft currently operated by NASA as well as future aircraft embodying NASA research goals in Air Vehicle Technology, including “overcoming technology barriers and challenges in developing safe, new vehicles that will fly faster, cleaner, and quieter, and use fuel far more efficiently.” The program will be providing “Methods and tools for integrating flight control into aero-structural-propulsion design processes.”
The novel and unique control-oriented MDAO capability is oriented to future air vehicles that are more energy efficient and environmentally safer. Commercial airframers will benefit from this MDAO capability that does not currently exist. Nonconventional airframers will also benefit for the design of unique aircraft such as high-altitude long endurance (HALE) vehicles and air taxis.