Autonomous Systems

Automatic control has been a critical technology for aerospace systems since the very birth of aviation: the Wright brothers’ first powered flight was successful only because of the presence of warpable wings allowing the pilot to continuously control an otherwise unstable aircraft. Today, control theory, i.e., the principled use of feedback loops and algorithms to steer a system to its goal, is the prime enabler for the design of autonomous vehicles (autopilots, UAVs, robots, self-driving `smart cars’, etc), but also the regulation of transportation infrastructures. We aim at developing efficient and reliable control and coordination algorithms that can be used in a variety of aerospace applications, from single systems such as a flight vehicle to a network of systems such as a satellite constellation. Also in this effort, we focus on security and resiliency of control mechanisms in networked and cybephysical systems in aerospace.


Shock Mitigation & Damage Detection in Structural and Rotor Systems

Rotordynamic systems are used extensively in different kinds of heavy duty real life applications. They are extensively used in aircraft engines, rotors, turbines, compressors, etc… Early phase damage detection in such rotor machinery systems is of considerable interest in research for protecting human and equipment. Extensive research work is being done at KU to develop efficient techniques for detecting fatigue crack damages in early phase of propagation. In addition, the application of nonlinear energy sinks (NESs) in aerospace structures has recently gained a significant interest. The NES is a lightweight device that passively absorbs and rapidly dissipates a considerable portion of shock energy induced into structures which mitigates destructive vibration and flutter. Here at KU, these topics are investigated in close collaboration with pioneering researchers in several foreign reputable institutions and labs.


Morphing Aircraft: Adaptive Structures, Flight Mechanics and Aeroelasticity

Morphing aircraft has gained a lot of interest as a potential technology and future trend to meet the ambitious goals of the EU ACARE2020 and FlightPath2050 documents in reducing fuel burn, noise, and emissions. A morphing aircraft continuously adjust its wing geometry to enhance flight performance, control authority and multi-mission capability. The interest in morphing aircraft as the technology of the future is not limited to small scale aircraft (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) but also large aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus are investigating the possibility of adding morphing technologies to their aircraft to enhance fuel efficiency and reduce operating costs. For example, the latest version of the Boeing 777 (B777x) aircraft will employ a folding wingtip capability to be activated only on ground during taxing to and from the gates allowing the aircraft to operate from smaller airports and fit within their gate limitations while having large wingspan during flight. At Khalifa University, current research activities focus on developing adaptive structures and flexible skin to facilitate morphing with minimal actuation requirements. This includes multi-fidelity design, modelling and optimization in addition to experimental testing and validation.  Furthermore, the flight mechanics and aeroelasticity of morphing aircraft are under investigation. Priority is given to span, twist and camber morphing degrees of freedom in addition to folding wingtips due to their high potential. International research collaborations include the University of Bristol, University of Southampton and Swansea University in the UK.