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December 16, 2002

Release: 02-66

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Researchers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., and Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., have begun a series of validation flights for a revolutionary flight control system that could enable future aircraft suffering major system failures or combat damage to be flown to a safe, controlled landing.

The Intelligent Flight Control System (IFCS) research, aboard a highly-modified F-15B, focuses on development of "self-learning" neural network software for aircraft flight control computers. In its final form, the software would compare data from how the aircraft and its systems are operating with a database of how it would normally operate, and automatically adjust the flight controls to compensate for any damaged or inoperative control surfaces or systems.

The current series, encompassing about six to 10 flights, began Dec. 6, 2002, at NASA Dryden, located at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The first of three objectives for this series of flights is to "validate the function of the new research computer - the Airborne Research Test System (ARTS) II computer," said John Carter, Dryden's IFCS project manager. This computer is being flown with a pre-trained neural net to verify that the non-learning parts of this system are functioning correctly. The ARTS II computer was designed and fabricated by the Institute for Scientific Research (ISR) in Fairmont, W.Va.

For the second objective, the project's chief engineer John Bosworth said, "We are going to attempt to determine the best maneuvers for on-line parameter identification - the aerodynamic data, stability and control, and handling qualities. In addition, for the third objective, we will be performing handling qualities studies with the non-learning system for comparison to the learning system in order to get more baseline data to compare with simulation and aerodynamic models."

"We are excited about the progress of the entire NASA/Boeing/ISR team," said Joe Totah, manager of the NeuroEngineering Lab at NASA Ames. "All of the participants play a critical role, ranging from the development of neural network algorithms sponsored by the Computing, Information, and Communication Technology Program, to the flight validation phases sponsored by the Vehicle Systems Program."

The F-15B, tail number 837, formerly flew in the Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles (ACTIVE) project at Dryden from 1995 through 1999. The aircraft, distinctive for its inlet-mounted canard surfaces ahead of the wings and its brilliant red, white and blue paint design, flew the initial IFCS research missions using a pre-trained, non-learning version of the software in the spring of 1999.


Note to Editors: Media Contact: Gray Creech (661) 276-2662. Photos are available online at: /centers/dfrc/gallery/photo/F-15B_837/index.html

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