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The Crew Behind The Uncrewed: Alberto Villarrubia

Could you briefly describe the main tasks you have to face in your day-to-day work as the flight control engineer for the fixed-wing solution?

I work in the fixed-wing area of the flight control department, where we tackle a lot of fascinating tasks and challenges. Among other things, we are in charge of performing adaptation flights to adjust the control parameters that govern the flight modes of our customers' platforms.

We also address the high level of developments that our customers propose as a result of operating in different areas of the UAV sector at an international level, as well as those developments that we detect internally as potentially key to the industry.

These developments are made according to the guidelines proposed by the DO-178C standard and follow the philosophy of "requirements-implementation-tests", the iterations that this entails and the corresponding validation and verification processes, which undoubtedly results in a quite complete task.

 

There is a lot of interest in VTOL platforms as they combine rotary and fixed-wing capabilities. Could you describe the biggest challenges these platforms present for autonomous flight solutions?

From my point of view, one of the most outstanding capabilities of our system is the flexibility it offers without neglecting the robustness that characterizes it.

The company has almost 20 years of experience flying both fixed and rotary-wing unmanned platforms. Both areas of the flight control department coexist in perfect harmony.

That is to say, both at the hardware and software levels, the different parts of our complete flight control system architecture (VECTOR autopilots, POLAR AHRS, GHU-100, Visionair...) share a solid common base. From there, they have evolved so that each type of platform can optimize its inherent specificities respectively.

In this way, we have been able to approach the development of the VTOL solution in a relatively agile and simple way, simultaneously taking into account both points of view. This has resulted in a very efficient solution for hybrid flight.

To give you an example, the vertical flight capability of the rotary wing, coupled with the efficiency and autonomy that characterizes fixed-wing platforms, allows us to think of very versatile systems capable of offering alternative solutions to problems that so far have not been addressed within the UAV industry.

 

Your work is also linked to the correct development of the Advanced Gains Adjustment Course that we offer to our customers. What advantages do customers get from this course, and what feedback do you receive from them?

Leveraging the fact that this series is called "The Ccrew Bbehind Tthe uUncrewed," the AGAC course could be defined as something like "the autonomy behind the autonomy." I will explain myself.

The course provides the customer with the ability to understand our control system in detail. It describes the necessary guidelines for modifying the parameters that govern it in real-time during the adjustment flights.

Commonly, once a customer's platform is tuned, they decide to incorporate minor changes or improvements in its configuration, either a modification in the MTOW, a change in the pitch angle of the propellers, the integration of a peripheral or the thrust of the engine, for example.

After receiving this course, the customer, independently from us, can adjust their aircraft, resulting in an optimal flight without the need for an external adaptation service or support from us.

When the customer also combines this course with other tools in the UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía environment, such as the HIL (Hardware-in-the-Loop) high realistic simulator, they can simulate the changes that are intended to be incorporated in their platform before going to the flying field and exploring the effect that the changes of the gains have on the platform. In addition, you can increase your experience tuning operations using Visionair's real-time graphics and post-processing tool, Visionair Analytics.

 

As one of the youngest members of UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía, what is it that caught your attention the most when you joined the company, and what are the aspects that you would highlight in comparison with other work experiences, either from your student time or working period?

It was the average age of the staff that caught my attention. I remember talking to several colleagues who were a little older than me when I joined the company. I was fascinated with the knowledge and experience in the sector that they already had at that time. Today, there are several colleagues who, at the age of 30, have been with the company for eight years! That kind of thing speaks very well of the work philosophy at UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía and the good atmosphere among all team members.

On the other hand, on a personal level, the most striking thing since I joined is undoubtedly the enthusiasm both individually and collectively when facing new challenges without losing sight of the already consolidated products.

This is reflected in the good communication between departments.

In "Flight Control", we are fortunate to have to interact with all the other departments of the company, especially with the departments of "Flight Testing", "Software", "Hardware", "Customer Relationship Group", "Quality", and "Administration".

It is impressive to see how everyone in the office works to make sure that the day-to-day work of the other colleagues runs as efficiently as possible. The new recruits quickly pick up on this way of working and the results are fantastic!

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UAV Navigation is a privately-owned company that has specialized in the design of flight control solutions for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) since 2004. It is used by a variety of Tier 1 aerospace manufacturers in a wide range of UAV - also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or 'drones'. These include high-performance tactical unmanned planes, aerial targets, mini-UAVs and helicopters.