Innovators at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center have developed a flight control system that allows an aircraft to maintain an attitude and heading within 5 meters of a desired position. In its current implementation, the Platform Precision Autopilot (PPA) is a digital system that augments the legacy analog Gulfstream III (G-III) autopilot system. The PPA consists of an embedded microcontroller-based flight computer and navigation algorithms that use externally provided attitude and differential global positioning system (GPS) information to generate aircraft control commands. The technology was developed for NASA’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) program to aid in precise, repeat-pass scientific missions. This real-time navigation tool communicates via a controller area network (CAN) to either a laptop station or an embedded display for cockpit use (see Figure 1). A novel approach to a digital-to-analog (DAC) converter allows the controller to have a wider output range with increased precision, and it allows incorporation into the G-III autopilot by imitating the output of an instrument landing system (ILS). Because the software is autocoded entirely in Simulink® block diagrams, it can be adapted for use in applications requiring precision navigation, such as surveillance or terrain mapping.
Simulink is a registered trademark of The MathWorks, Inc.
This technology is part of NASA’s technology transfer program. The program seeks to stimulate broad commercial use/application of NASA-developed technologies. NASA is flexible in its agreements, and opportunities exist for licensing and joint development. Dryden is interested in a partnership to commercialize this technology.
If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA’s technology transfer program, please contact:Innovative Partnerships Office