College - Author 1

College of Engineering

Department - Author 1

Electrical Engineering Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BS in Electrical Engineering



Primary Advisor

Benjamin Hawkins, College of Engineering, Electrical Engineering Department


Natilus, an aerospace company that is rapid-prototyping optionally piloted aircraft (OPA) for the shipping industry, needs a system that retrieves control column position data in order to manipulate flight simulator parameters in software. At present, a universally compatible system for all aircraft does not exist. Typically, established aerospace companies will sink significant time and money into developing proprietary systems for control column data retrieval as every aircraft is unique in its layout and linkage design. However, as a startup developing their first aircraft, Natilus does not have the privilege of modifying an existing sensor system to work with their HIL Iron Bird in the simulator. To successfully simulate flight controls in the Iron Bird, position data must be captured for the parameters pitch, roll, yaw, and throttle. Additionally, Natilus requires pilot input force data for pitch, roll, and yaw to verify human factors while “Hardware-in-the-Loop” testing with the Iron Bird control column.

This proposed electrical system shall mechanically integrate with the control column (and its peripherals) and digitally integrate with MATLAB and X-Plane simulators. It shall reduce the time and development costs for the first flight plane by providing only the necessary parameters for the simulation of the control surface responses to control column inputs while remaining easy to install, modify, and test. Additionally, this test system will become the foundation for the sensor system in the eventual production-scale aircraft. By utilizing a system that is perfectly compatible with the Natilus aircraft now — as it is being designed — the probability of issues arising with precision or integration bugs as the vehicle moves into production is reduced. Eliminating such threats to schedule at the prototyping stage will protect the product delivery date that Natilus has set for themselves and the other stakeholders.