A cutting edge flight control system that was developed by Rockwell Collins Control Technology permits smashed unmanned aerial vehicles to not only keep on flying, but also to safely return to base.
The technology was recently validated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which tested the damage tolerant controls program on a subscale F/A-18. The aircraft recovered from catastrophic wing damage within seconds. Then, within several minutes, the flight control system reconfigured itself. The upshot was subsequently a perfect autonomous landing.
“We wanted to give autonomous aircraft an ‘air sense’ that would allow them to deal with the unexpected, the way a human pilot might,’ says Lt. Col. Jim McCormick, the DARPA program manager.