Implementation and flight testing of an Autonomous Formation Flying System (AFFS)

James C. Neidhoefer, Jason C. Ryan, Eric S. Johnson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

A significant obstacle to the implementation of autonomously-controlled aircraft into the national airspace system is the tendency of autonomous systems to operate in non-deterministic manners. While autonomous aircraft may have the capability to safely maneuver in shared airspace, they often do not operate under the same flight guidelines as a trained human pilot, leading to potential misinterpretation of actions and flight paths. The Autonomous Formation Flying System (AFFS) provides both autonomous control for formation flight as well as a deterministic solution for changes in trajectory. The AFFS gives rotorcraft the capability to autonomously avoid multiple static or moving obstacles, including pop-up threats, while flying in formation. It functions in dynamic three-dimensional situations with both small and large heterogeneous formations, facilitating safe and efficient entries into and exits from a formation while also allowing seamless, real-time changes in the formation structure and following the standard "rules of the road" adhered to by trained human pilots. The testing of this innovative system included a series of manned and unmanned multi-ship simulations as well as flight-test experiments in which Georgia Tech's GTMax rotorcraft UAV was flown in formation with a manned high-fidelity UH-60 simulation. Both the simulations and flight-tests effectively demonstrated the autonomous formation flying and collision avoidance capabilities of the AFFS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Infotech at Aerospace Conference and Exhibit and AIAA Unmanned...Unlimited Conference
StatePublished - 2009
EventAIAA Infotech at Aerospace Conference and Exhibit and AIAA Unmanned...Unlimited Conference - Seattle, WA, United States
Duration: Apr 6 2009Apr 9 2009

Publication series

NameAIAA Infotech at Aerospace Conference and Exhibit and AIAA Unmanned...Unlimited Conference

Other

OtherAIAA Infotech at Aerospace Conference and Exhibit and AIAA Unmanned...Unlimited Conference
CountryUnited States
CitySeattle, WA
Period4/6/094/9/09

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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  • Cite this

    Neidhoefer, J. C., Ryan, J. C., & Johnson, E. S. (2009). Implementation and flight testing of an Autonomous Formation Flying System (AFFS). In AIAA Infotech at Aerospace Conference and Exhibit and AIAA Unmanned...Unlimited Conference [2009-1823] (AIAA Infotech at Aerospace Conference and Exhibit and AIAA Unmanned...Unlimited Conference).