Unmanned rotorcraft flight testing using wireless sensor networks for data collection and cloud-based computing

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O'Neil, D.
Low, S.
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Aircraft flight test has traditionally been expensive and time consuming to accomplish, requiring complex hardware design and integration and extensive operational test teams to address aircraft downtime for instrumentation maintenance and calibration, flight operations, and post-flight data handling and evaluation. Recently, elements of Boeing Military Aircraft flight test and LORD MicroStrain worked jointly to conduct a flight load, vibration, and thermal survey of a Boeing S-100 autonomous rotorcraft using a suite of LORD MicroStrain wireless sensors and inertial devices. This program represents a technology breakthrough wherein an autonomous rotorcraft flight test program utilized only wireless sensors within synchronized networks to collect flight data of interest. In addition to the successful collection of high quality data, the Boeing team was able to accelerate the flight test program with significantly reduced expense by leveraging off-the-shelf wireless technology. The wireless nature of the comparatively affordable technology allowed a minimally-invasive integration onto the flight vehicle, and LORD SensorCloud™ analytics enabled a single team of limited personnel to make go/no-go decisions based on nearly real-time data evaluation. This approach provided augmented decision efficiency, which accelerated flight test execution by allowing multiple daily sorties and concurrent data analysis.