Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI developing flight test solutions through DARPA BRASS, AFRL contract

Feb. 21, 2018 — Southwest Research Institute is developing software application techniques to improve the agility and cost-effectiveness of flight tests used to qualify military and civilian aircraft.

Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory, the one-year, $791,000 project supports DARPA’s efforts to enable military software to adapt to technology changes and security updates over several decades. SwRI will incorporate DARPA’s Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems into a universal computer language for flight test vendors.

“Real-time adaptability is a major challenge for military and commercial flight testing,” said Austin Whittington, the program’s principal investigator and an SwRI flight test researcher. “We see a great opportunity with DARPA’s BRASS technology to help expedite industry and military adoption of interoperability standards and adaptation techniques.”

Required for aircraft development and maintenance, flight tests use instruments and networks to prove aircraft are ready for service. Testing programs use different instrument vendors to test for hundreds of potential problems. Each test instrument typically uses proprietary software with custom “flight test constraints” that define the instrument’s capabilities that can be used for problems or situations an aircraft may encounter.

Synchronizing flight testing goals for different instruments is a major challenge for the aerospace industry. Engineers try to test multiple problems on each test flight, but they are often delayed when a single failure causes a chain reaction of delays to unrelated tests.

To overcome these issues, SwRI will use DARPA’s BRASS technology to augment the capabilities of a common flight test constraints implementation that SwRI has been developing through the DoD’s Integrated Network-Enhanced Telemetry program, or iNET.

As iNET’s lead integrator, SwRI, DoD, and aerospace stakeholders defined a Metadata Description Language (MDL) to allow for standard configuration of all vendor hardware. A standard language will help test engineers work across vendor devices, paving the way for flight tests to better adapt to changing conditions, such as inclement weather or equipment failures.

“If the BRASS techniques prove to be adaptable and sustainable to match the overarching goals of flight test programs, their applicability and effectiveness for the warfighter will be far-reaching and persistent,” Whittington added.

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For more information, contact Robert Crowe, (210) 522-4630, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.