From signature to fully autonomous flight

This article describes the workflow for a regular Flight Control System (FCS) integration project.

UAV Navigation works on a standard lead time of 6 weeks for its products, starting when a Purchase Order is placed.

There is no need to consider this lead time as wasted time; customers will immediately have access to UAV Navigation’s Knowledge Base where all product documentation including product specification, manuals and installation guides are located.

Most customers take advantage of the delivery lead time to check out the Knowledge Base and also to prepare their platform for the moment the FCS hardware is delivered.

Remote support is also provided by an advanced ticketing system.

Once the FCS is actually received, the customer can start with the integration of the system into the platform.

INTEGRATION + PLATFORM VERIFICATION + TRAINING

Before starting the adaptation process, the FCS needs to be correctly integrated into the platform and a series of verifications and checks must be performed by UAV Navigation engineers prior to the first flight.

The goal of this integration process is the physical installation, wiring and configuration of the different hardware devices for correct interaction with the FCS.

Flight Control System

The Ground Control Station (GCS) computer must be enabled with UAV Navigation’s GCS software and correctly interfaced with the different ground sub-systems.

On the airborne side, the autopilot must be mechanically mounted on the platform, being correctly isolated from any vibrations that the platform might generate. UAV Navigation has many years of experience on a wide variety of platforms and vibration isolation systems and will be delighted to advise customers on the most appropriate damping system to deal with different vibration scenarios.
Once mechanically installed into the platform, the autopilot must be interfaced with the power supply, datalink, actuators, external sensors and payloads etc. Additionally, GPS and communication antennas should be installed as well as the Air Data System (ADS).

The next step is to perform a basic configuration of the FCS, including general settings, control deflections, engine control and any related sensor feedback, external sensors and payload configuration.

Once the FCS is integrated, an engine start is performed in order to check all the sub-systems, including vibration analysis, magnetometer feedback and GPS signal etc.

Integration training can be provided during the process of FCS integration in a customer’s platform; the aim is to teach the customer the full process for future new platform integrations. The same process is repeated by the customer each time a new platform of the same model is manufactured. Again, the aim is for the customer to be completely independent. In any case, UAV Navigation will be happy to provide any support required by the customer.

ADAPTATION

UAV Navigation is able to do simple adaptations for low-cost UAVs and more complex ones for high value projects where the risk of accident during flight trials is unacceptable.

  • Simple adaptation:

    • Basic configuration preset based on experience with similar aircraft.
    • Flight tests with the assistance of an External Pilot to tune inner loops, outer loops, and all operating modes including automatic take-off and landing.
    • Analysis of all tests flight logs.
    • Control parameter optimization and Final Acceptance Tests.
  • Complex adaptation:

    • A complete 6DOF model is derived from information provided by the platform’s manufacturer.
    • Optionally, the platform’s performance may be measured during a ‘Passenger Flight’ during which the autopilot is flown passively within the aircraft while recording flight parameters.
    • Analysis of ‘Passenger Flight’ flight logs.
    • Modelling and simulator refinement.
    • Flight trials with the obtained control parameters. If necessary, minor changes may be made although it is usually not necessary. Final Acceptance Test.