Wednesday, July 6, 2016

2016-07-06: Autonomy Incubator Hosts Safety-Critical Avionics Research Flight

Intern Serena Pan and the rest of the Safety-Critical Avionics interns celebrate post-flight.

The  flight range in Building 1222 is already crowded of late, but today we made room for one more as the Safety-Critical Avionics team came over to the Autonomy Incubator (Ai) to fly their octorotor. Evan Dill, an engineer from the Safety-Critical Avionics Research Branch here at NASA Langley, led the band of merry scientists. 

Evan checks in with his team before takeoff.

"We're testing elements for demonstrating our containment system, and some collision avoidance as well," Evan said. Safety-Critical Avionics is working on a geo-containment system for unmanned aircraft, not unlike the one that Ai intern Nick Woodward worked on last summer. Obviously, their project focuses less on autonomy and more on safety, but our labs' missions still align in a way that makes cooperating when necessary easy— like today.

Interns Nathan Lowe, Serena Pan, Kyle Edgerton, and Russell Gilabert conducted the test, with Russell serving as the UAV pilot.

Kyle Edgerton carries the octorotor into position on the flight range.

"We're dampening the controls so that if I tell it to pitch, it goes ten degrees instead of forty-five degrees," Russell explained. With the pitch dampened, the UAV will maneuver in a slower, more controlled (and predictable) manner.

The flight was successful—the vehicle remained under thirteen degrees of tilt as Russell put it through some simple maneuvers— and after a brief round of congratulations, our guests set off back to their hangar.

The octorotor in flight. Note how gently it's banking.

With unmanned vehicles gaining greater and greater importance in the scientific community and the world at large, the Ai is happy to support other NASA UAV labs in their missions. Thanks for stopping by, team!

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