BS in Electrical Engineering
Electrical Engineering Department
As aircraft systems continue to become more integrated and fully electronic, hence fly-by-wire, the pilot is slowly losing the physical cues that were once relied upon for the safe operation of the aircraft. Many commercial airliners, such as Airbus, use passive sidesticks that integrate with the electronic flight controls system. These sidesticks move much like a gaming joystick which results in the pilot not having any “feel” for the aerodynamic forces present on the control surfaces. Without the force feedback of a mechanically linked control system the pilot could inadvertently stall the aircraft or place it into an unstable flight condition. To combat this, the active sidestick will include a servo mechanism to provide force feedback and use strain gauges to determine the force applied to the sidestick by the pilot. Multiple sources of data, such as the aircraft configuration and critical speeds can be used to produce a force gradient which resist a pilot’s inputs if they are exceeding the aircraft capabilities.
The active sidestick will interface with PC based flight simulation to control an aircraft and receive flight characteristic data to properly adjust the forces present on the sidestick. Being solely based on force input for aircraft control, if there were to be an in-flight failure of the servos the pilot would still be able to control the aircraft by force alone. Such a sidestick could be used in any number of aviation applications; it would improve the safety of unmanned aircraft operations in which the pilot/operator receives no tactile feedback at the controls. It could also become physically small enough and cost effective to be outfitted in modern general aviation aircraft to prevent the all-too-common loss of control scenario upon landing or takeoff.