Professor Raynald (Ray) Bédard of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) was first introduced to X-Plane from a Munich University of Applied Science intern student in March 2012. The German student’s expertise in creating aircraft using X-Plane’s software, Plane Maker, proved invaluable to Professor Bédard and his students as they prepared to enter the AUVSI small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) competition.
Ray says “X-Plane’s Plane Maker program allows our Embry-Riddle team to very accurately evaluate the performance of the model and subsequent modifications. It’s a very powerful modeling tool making it easy to create aircraft with very specific flight characteristics. The program also facilitates the tuning of the team’s autopilot design, called Ardupilot, in the lab before flying the design versions on the test range.” He added that ERAU now uses X-Plane to study integration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in their Air Traffic Management simulation lab.
Munich University of Applied Sciences Aerospace Engineering student Marius Schurian explains their team’s comprehensive simulation test phase of the overall system, “To prevent the crash of an aircraft during flight testing, the team decided to run a comprehensive simulation of the overall system by using the autopilot APM Ardupilot, allowing the simulation of flights in X-Plane while practicing sequences. The program can be converted so that prototypes can be flown by the Ardupilot autonomously.”
Marius marvels as he continues, “First of all, the UAV had to be recreated as a simulation model with detailed accuracy through Plane Maker. For the virtual replication, aerodynamic aspects play a major role! All the aerodynamic data of wing shape profiles and empennage can be entered into the program resulting in a realistic virtual model. A detailed overview of flight characteristics, minimum and maximum velocity, as well as the maximum flight duration of the aircraft were all derived from the simulated flights using X-Plane. By determining these factors, the risk of a crash during the maiden flight was minimized significantly. X-Plane simulation is a powerful asset!”
The custom UAS simulator, part of the Embry-Riddle Virtual Airspace (ERVA), built by Skylar Sanders, former US Army UAS Instructor Operator and current ERAU student, allows unmanned aircraft to be detected by radar and a communication channel established between the UAS pilot and air traffic controllers during flight. Skylar commented “ERVA is unique, in that there are few simulators in the country that can simulate the integration of UAS technologies into the national airspace.”
Students recall that when they discovered that the autopilot integrated almost seamlessly with X-Plane it was possible to forward data to any type of program recognizing the input and output codes. Ray added that this increased his students’ learning experiences. He adds that what would be helpful in his situation, with 3 separate programs using X-Plane as a hub pushing aircraft information out, would be multiple DIS out ports supporting his classroom setting.
ERAU UAS students average two hours a day, five days a week using X-Plane version 9 in the lab.