Researchers aim for better interoperability among flight test instrumentation vendors

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, the company said.

Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory, the one-year, USD 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.

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.