STI & S-PLANE on NASA Grant for Autonomous AAM

S-PLANE is collaborating with Systems Technology Inc.(STI) on a NASA grant to support the Development and Certification of Autonomous Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) vehicles. Under this grant, S-PLANE’s X-KIT is applied to automate AAM vehicles, while STI’s ASSIST software is used for integrated developmental and operational flight testing. The work is supported by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, with inputs from the FAA and industry partners.

The X-KIT comprises a complete set of mission and flight automation, communication, ground control and simulation solutions. It is used to convert human-piloted and unmanned aircraft into certifiable Unmanned and Optionally Piloted Systems (OPS). Examples of recent applications of the X-KIT include a Cessna Citation VII for Airbus UpNext’s Extra Performance Wing Project, and a Tecnam P2006T aircraft for Indra’s Targus OPS.

STI’s ASSIST is a laptop-based real-time flight test software solution that is integrated with S-PLANE’s X-KIT. It is used to support development and certification by simplifying and improving activities such as system identification, ride and flying qualities assessment, and mission task element evaluation.

The AAM market is characterised by a proliferation of aircraft with increasing automation. There is a tendency towards fully autonomous operation in the absence of test pilot evaluators. On the technical front, there is a need for model-based design and flight clearance, as well as widespread use of software- and hardware-in-the-loop ground testing. Vehicle testing is often performed via remote piloting and evaluation is based on quantitative metrics. All of this is capped by the need for short timeframes for the assessment of mission capabilities and for certification. The X-KIT and ASSIST offer solutions to these challenges.

The combination of ASSIST with the X-KIT addresses technical and procedural gaps in the current test and evaluation processes specifically for AAM and also for UAS in general. System automation provides unique opportunities for test integration, standardisation and risk reduction, but requires alternatives to experience and subjective evaluation when removing test pilots form the cockpit. For AAM and UAS certification there is a higher relevance of testing mission requirements, as supported by ASSIST.

About S-PLANE:

For the past 16 years S-PLANE has been producing complete certification-ready automation, simulation, communication, and ground control solutions for manned, unmanned and optionally piloted airborne systems. Applicable aircraft range from 100kg to more than 20 tons of GMTOW. S-PLANE combines its market-leading products with system engineering, integration, testing and certification support to customize and deliver safe and reliable solutions to clients in the shortest possible timeframes. Their portfolio spans fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and applies to civil and military special-mission and cargo transport operations.

About STI:

STI was founded in 1957 and is based in Hawthorne, California. It provides R&D for the US government and commercial services to the aerospace and defence industries. STI develops engineering solutions for complex air vehicles and the humans and/or automation that controls them, including VTOL (rotary wing and other powered lift configurations), transports, business jets, tactical aircraft, high speed aircraft, and unmanned systems. The company’s specific focus is on vehicle dynamics, manual and automatic control, handling qualities, piloted simulation, flight test, integration of AAM and unmanned systems into airspace, and related human factors.


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