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Next Generation of SMARt Active Inceptor for Tilt Rotor Application

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMAR-TeR (Next Generation of SMARt Active Inceptor for Tilt Rotor Application)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31

The SMAR-TeR project final goal is the identification of the specifications for a new class of active inceptors for the LHD’s Next Generation Civil Tilt Rotor.
The Consortium worked on to development of ergonomics architectures design that improve pilot comfort and enhance safety. The SMAR-TeR project focus regarded the description and the definition of three different configurations tested from which the final inceptor specifications was defined.
The new active inceptor intends to reduce pilot workload while ensuring that the pilot remains the ultimate decision-making authority for the aircraft control. For this reason, virtual reality-based methods were used in the first months to define the best inceptor ergonomics architecture to improve the pilot comfort and the workload reduction.
Moreover, the SMAR-TeR project worked on the idea to equip this next-gen inceptor with “haptic capabilities”, implemented by developing software and hardware solutions with the purpose to define a communication channel from the tiltrotor’s fly-by-wire system to the pilot through the inceptor itself. The combination of fly-by-wire control technology and this kind of inceptors wants to facilitate the implementation of advanced FCS logics.
This project directly contributes to the WP1 dedicated to the NGCTR demonstrator of the Fast Rotor Craft platform of the Clean Sky 2 JU.
the activities performed during RP1 started from the definition of the planning of both technical and communicative/disseminative activities, to the final specification of final configuration chosen.
The first step consisted in a specification review, a conceptual system design, trade-off activities and a technological innovation assessment with the final aim to identify the possible ergonomics architectures that match the Topic Manager’s requirements. Virtual reality-based methods were used in order to define the best inceptor ergonomics architecture and functionality to improve the pilot’s comfort and workload reduction. Moreover, the inceptors were studied with “haptic capabilities”, implemented by developing software and hardware solutions in order to define an active inceptor system that feeds information from the tiltrotor’s fly-by-wire system to the pilot through the inceptor itself. This “tactile cueing” is one of the many benefits of the active inceptor system. The system was designed, manufactured and tested keeping in mind current trends in pilot haptic aiding that go beyond the variable stiffness or passive haptic aids characteristics currently adopted. At the middle of the project, three inceptors’ configurations were chosen, prototyped and finally tested at LHD’s facilities to define the final inceptor specification.
The SMAR-TeR Consortium is made-up by 2 small-medium enterprises and 2 research center of excellence.
• Mare Engineering spa – MARE
MARE coordinated the project and through the third-party Mare Digital (formerly LIN UP srl) carried out ergonomics analyzes to facilitate the evaluation of the best type of flight controls.
• Umbria Aerospace Systems spa – UAS
UAS led the design and the manufacturing of the prototypes.
• University of Pisa, Dep. Of Information Engineering – UNIPI
UNIPI supported the architectural setting and guided the design and implementation of the control logics on the device.
• Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Dep. of Human Perception, Cognition and Action – MPG
MPG supported the design of the control logics and coordinated the research and evaluation methodology of the best solution.
Inceptors traditionally are connected to directional aircraft surfaces and power controls through mechanical linkages. On fly-by-wire aircraft, the inceptors transmit pilot inputs to the flight control computer, which translates them instantaneously to commands that adjust directional surfaces and power. Active inceptor systems feed information from the aircraft’s fly-by-wire system to the pilot through the inceptor (see diagram below). This “tactile cueing” is one of the many benefits of an active inceptor system. In an active inceptor system, two inceptors can be electronically coupled as if they were mechanically linked. Dual-pilot aircraft can thus benefit from the additional feel and cueing capabilities without the weight and through life cost penalties of actual mechanical linkages.

The difficulties for the pilots to maneuvers such a vehicle is in part covered by FCS and FCC and part by specific inceptor representing the final interface with the pilot. In particular the development of active inceptor should mimic a mechanical linkage, all physical parameters of which can be adjusted by the flight control computer in real-time, depending on the status of the aircraft. With having an active inceptor available, not only the disadvantages of the missing tactile feedback can be overcome, but also additional tactile cues can be added to improve the handling qualities and/or to reduce the workload further [Hosman1990]. The quality of the active inceptor is proportional to the amount of information that can be transferred to the pilot, which is equivalent to the tactile bandwidth [Einthoven2004].

The SMAR-TeR project intends to go beyond the state-of-the-art of civil tilt rotor inceptor concept, by fulfilling the following points.
The proposed inceptors is characterized by a simplified command logic, specifically tailored for a tiltrotor class vehicle and will result in a cheaper and lighter design, compared with current reference, represented by AW609 civil tiltrotor, which foresees mechanical linkage between pilot and co-pilot.
The SMAR-TeR project investigated all possible combinations of different existing and some novel concepts (subject of current analysis) mechanical control devices creating an analytical performance assessment matrix with the aim of predicting the inceptor configurations points of strengths and weaknesses in terms of easiness and intuitiveness of the command logic, effectiveness in the three flight phases (vertical flight, horizontal flight and transition), and relationship to fly-by-wire flight control system commands (including both simulated mechanical linkage, velocity, rate and position command modes).
Analytical and ergonomic assessment of each configuration was performed according to partners experience, Topic Leader support, key performance indicators and the use of virtual-reality tools with aircraft cockpit's representation. Thus, a conscious and performance-aware optimization first, and selection later was performed obtaining inceptor configurations with a high potentiality of innovation and effectiveness for the specific tiltrotor control application.
Since pilot loss of situational awareness is considered one of the major sources of flight accidents, the
proposed inceptors included haptic features in order to ease pilot situational awareness. Thanks to smart sensors and actuators the pilot commands can be translated to the vehicle’s FCS providing counter force feedback to the pilot.
Haptic shared control systems are support systems that share the control with the human operator by providing additional forces on the control device that show possible control strategies.
SMAR-TeR Logo 2
SMAR-TeR Visual grafica