DARPA Takes Big Step in Aircraft Safety

The U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency issued the following news release: Military aircraft today face many threats, including surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns and weapons fired from hostile aircraft...


The U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency issued the following news release:

Military aircraft today face many threats, including surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns and weapons fired from hostile aircraft. Despite modern systems that help friendly aircraft evade these threats, sometimes damage occurs. To improve survivability of damaged aircraft, DARPA's Damage Tolerant Controls (DTC) program is developing software to compensate for damaged aircraft control surfaces and engines, allowing pilots to land their aircraft safely. This technology also applies to material failures that can degrade flight performance in an unpredictable manner.

"Damage tolerance is an enabling capability to increase mission reliability in military aircraft operating in high-threat environments, but could benefit commercial and other aviation aircraft as well," said James McCormick, DARPA program manager. "Damage tolerant control technology provides for real-time autonomous accommodation of damage followed by an adaptation process that alters flight control systems to compensate for the effects of damage."

DARPA has teamed with the U.S. Army to demonstrate damage tolerance on the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Flight testing is planned for Oct. 1 and involves up to 4 days of testing over the next several weeks. The tests, conducted at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, will verify performance of DTC to determine the limits of damage aircraft can handle, provide the Army an understanding of DTC's operational benefits to Shadow's UAS mission, and generate awareness of overall progress in adaptive controls technology to encourage continued advancement in operational applications.

This class of control offers extensive performance improvements and cost savings that extend well beyond surviving damage. DARPA selected Rockwell Collins as the performer in this effort.

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