The F-15 Advanced Controls Technology for Integrated Vehicles (ACTIVE) airplane (see figure) was the test bed for a flight test of an intelligent flight control system (IFCS). This IFCS utilizes a neural network to determine critical stability and control derivatives for a control law, the real-time gains of which are computed by an algorithm that solves the Riccati equation. These derivatives are also used to identify the parameters of a dynamic model of the airplane. The model is used in a model-following portion of the control law, in order to provide specific vehicle handling characteristics. The flight test of the IFCS marks the initiation of the Intelligent Flight Control System Advanced Concept Program (IFCS ACP), which is a collaboration between NASA and Boeing Phantom Works.

The goals of the IFCS ACP are to (1) develop the concept of a flight-control system that uses neural-network technology to identify aircraft characteristics to provide optimal aircraft performance, (2) develop a self-training neural network to update estimates of aircraft properties in flight, and (3) demonstrate the aforementioned concepts on the F-15 ACTIVE airplane in flight. The activities of the initial IFCS ACP were divided into three Phases, each devoted to the attainment of a different objective. The objective of Phase I was to develop a pre-trained neural network to store and recall the wind-tunnel-based stability and control derivatives of the vehicle. The objective of Phase II was to develop a neural network that can learn how to adjust the stability and control derivatives to account for failures or modeling deficiencies. The objective of Phase III was to develop a flight control system that uses the neural network outputs as a basis for controlling the aircraft. The flight test of the IFCS was performed in stages. In the first stage, the Phase I version of the pre-trained neural network was flown in a passive mode. The neural network software was running using flight data inputs with the outputs provided to instrumentation only. The IFCS was not used to control the airplane. In another stage of the flight test, the Phase I pre-trained neural network was integrated into a Phase III version of the flight control system. The Phase I pre-trained neural network provided real-time stability and control derivatives to a Phase III controller that was based on a stochastic optimal feedforward and feedback technique (SOFFT). This combined Phase I/III system was operated together with the research flight-control system (RFCS) of the F-15 ACTIVE during the flight test. The RFCS enables the pilot to switch quickly from the experimental-research flight mode back to the safe conventional mode.

The F-15 ACTIVE Airplane is a test bed for advanced flight-control systems.

These initial IFCS ACP flight tests were completed in April 1999. The Phase I/III flight test milestone was to demonstrate, across a range of subsonic and supersonic flight conditions, that the pre-trained neural network could be used to supply real-time aerodynamic stability and control derivatives to the closed-loop optimal SOFFT flight controller. Additional objectives attained in the flight test included (1) flight qualification of a neural-network-based control system; (2) the use of a combined neural-network/closed-loop optimal flight-control system to obtain level-one handling qualities; and (3) demonstration, through variation of control gains, that different handling qualities can be achieved by setting new target parameters. In addition, data for the Phase-II (on-line-learning) neural network were collected, during the use of stacked-frequency-sweep excitation, for post-flight analysis. Initial analysis of these data showed the potential for future flight tests that will incorporate the real-time identification and on-line learning aspects of the IFCS.

The majority of the design for

this work was performed by Ron Davidson of Boeing Phantom Works and John T. Bosworth, Steven R. Jacobson, and Michael P. Thomson of Dryden Flight Research Center, and Charles C. Jorgensen of Ames Research Center. For further information, contact the Dryden Commercial Technology Office at (661) 276-3689.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2003 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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