Intelligent Flight: What is it?

music
ambience: Jet engine and Radio Communication

A self-aware airplane? It might come in handy if you run into trouble at 50,000 feet. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jim Smolka is an aerospace research pilot at Dryden Flight Research Center. Recently he’s been involved with the development of the intelligent flight control system.

“The Intelligent Flight Control System is a software decision-making system on the aircraft in the flight-control computer. And what that system does is it measures the response of the airplane — it compares the actual response to a model of what the desired response is, and then it tries to make the two the same.”

Sensors measure information like changes in altitude, and acceleration, and the flight control system is ready to respond and compensate if anything goes wrong.

“The idea behind the system is that the system would always be functional. And the pilot would be flying the airplane and the airplane would feel just perfectly normal to him. And then, if there’s some kind of a catastrophic failure — for instance, one of the control surfaces gets jammed, or maybe it is damaged in some other way, so that it’s no longer usable to help control the airplane, the pilot would have some indication in the cockpit that something was wrong, because he would have some warning lights or something. But the airplane would fly substantially the same as before the failure occurred. And that’s what the goal is, is to keep the airplane flying as close as we can to a good airplane using the software to reconfigure the airplane in real time as these failures occur.”

We’ll hear more about the development of the Intelligent Flight Control System in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.

Intelligent Flight: What is it?

Flying an airplane could one day be safer, thanks to an invisible copilot.
Air Date:05/16/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: Jet engine and Radio Communication

A self-aware airplane? It might come in handy if you run into trouble at 50,000 feet. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jim Smolka is an aerospace research pilot at Dryden Flight Research Center. Recently he’s been involved with the development of the intelligent flight control system.

“The Intelligent Flight Control System is a software decision-making system on the aircraft in the flight-control computer. And what that system does is it measures the response of the airplane -- it compares the actual response to a model of what the desired response is, and then it tries to make the two the same.”

Sensors measure information like changes in altitude, and acceleration, and the flight control system is ready to respond and compensate if anything goes wrong.

“The idea behind the system is that the system would always be functional. And the pilot would be flying the airplane and the airplane would feel just perfectly normal to him. And then, if there's some kind of a catastrophic failure -- for instance, one of the control surfaces gets jammed, or maybe it is damaged in some other way, so that it's no longer usable to help control the airplane, the pilot would have some indication in the cockpit that something was wrong, because he would have some warning lights or something. But the airplane would fly substantially the same as before the failure occurred. And that's what the goal is, is to keep the airplane flying as close as we can to a good airplane using the software to reconfigure the airplane in real time as these failures occur.”

We’ll hear more about the development of the Intelligent Flight Control System in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA. I’m Jim Metzner.