Date of Award

Fall 2013

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Department

Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Richard "Pat" Anderson

First Committee Member

Dr. Jason Kring

Second Committee Member

Dr. Hever Moncayo Lasso

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis was to develop fly-by-wire control laws enabling a general aviation aircraft to be flown with automotive controls, i.e. a steering wheel and gas/brake pedals. There was a six speed shifter used to change the flight mode of the aircraft. This essentially allows the pilot to have control over different aspects of the flight profile such as climb/descend or cruise. A highway in the sky was used to aid in the navigation since it is not intuitive to people without flight experience how to navigate from the sky or when to climb and descend.

Many believe that general aviation could become as widespread as the automobile. Every person could have a personal aircraft at their disposal and it would be as easy to operate as driving an automobile. The goal of this thesis is to fuse the ease of drivability of a car with flight of a small general aviation aircraft. A standard automotive control hardware setup coupled with variably autonomous control laws will allow new pilots to fly a plane as easily as driving a car. The idea is that new pilots will require very little training to become proficient with these controls. Pilots with little time to stay current can maintain their skills simply by driving a car which is typically a daily activity. A human factors study was conducted to determine the feasibility of the applied control techniques. Pilot performance metrics were developed to compare candidates with no aviation background and experienced pilots. After analyzing the relative performance between pilots and non-pilots, it has been determined that the control system is robust and easy to learn. Candidates with no aviation experience whatsoever can learn to fly an aircraft as safely and efficiently as someone with hundreds of hours of flight experience using these controls.

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