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Enhancing Aerospace Engineering Education Through Flight Testing Research

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Aerospace Technical Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.507.1 - 15.507.17



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Paper Authors


Kerri Phillips West Virginia University

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Kerri Phillips is a doctoral student in aerospace engineering at West Virginia University. She obtained bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering from WVU in December 2007 and was named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar and to the USA Today All-Academic Team. She has participated in internships with both NASA and Boeing and her research interests include flight controls, flight testing, and aircraft system identification.

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Giampiero Campa The MathWorks, Inc.

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Dr Campa received both is M.S. degree in Control Engineering (1996) and his and Ph.D. degree in Robotics and Automation (2000), from the University of Pisa, Italy. He has also worked at the Industrial Control Centre, Strathclyde University, UK, (1995) and at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA (1999). From 2000 to 2008 he served as faculty in the Flight Control Group at the Department of Aerospace Engineering , West Virginia University. His research at WVU involved system identification, sensor fusion, fault tolerant systems, machine vision, and adaptive and nonlinear control, especially applied to UAVs. He joined the Mathworks in 2009, where he currently works as a Technical Evangelist for the west coast area.

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Srikanth Gururajan West Virginia University

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Dr. Gururajan is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at West Virginia University. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Madras in 1997 and PhD from West Virginia University in 2006. His interests are in Flight Testing of UAVs, Aircraft Parameter Identification and Flight Controls, Neural Networks, Parallel and Distributed computing and Real-Time Operating Systems.

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Marcello Napolitano West Virginia University

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Marcello R. Napolitano, was born in Pomigliano D’Arco, Italy. He received his M.S. Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Naples, Italy, 1985 and his Ph.D. Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Oklahoma University (1989). In 1990 he joined the Department of Aerospace Engineering, West Virginia University, where is currently a Full Professor. His current research interests include Flight Control Systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Fault Tolerance, and Neural Networks.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Enhancing Aerospace Engineering Education through Flight Testing Research Abstract

This paper describes the typical workflow of projects conducted within the flight control group at West Virginia University (WVU) over the last decade. Researchers belonging to this group have acquired substantial and documented experience in the design, manufacturing and flight testing of small unmanned aircraft and successfully demonstrated autonomous GPS-based, closed-loop formation flight using 3 custom-built jet-powered UAVs in 2004. A typical flight control project at West Virginia University embodies several aspects of engineering education, as well as theoretical and practical topics, which are not covered in a conventional classroom or research setting. Specifically, undergraduate and graduate students involved within different research projects learn basic hardware and maintenance of small unmanned aerial vehicles, systems engineering, aircraft design, flight simulation and testing, as well as system identification and control design. Although aerospace engineering students are introduced to the fundamentals of flight dynamics in their coursework, the experience of project-based research enhances their understanding of the discipline as well as improves other critical engineering skills for future application in the professional world. This paper describes the work of several undergraduate and graduate students in the above-mentioned areas, with particular emphasis on the flight-testing and system identification phases.


Aerospace engineering education at a college or university typically encompasses the study of aircraft, rockets, missiles, and spacecraft. An aerospace engineering curriculum consists of the fundamental concepts of flight, mathematics, and science, as well as the most recent advances in aerospace technology22. Laboratories or special class projects are often incorporated to enhance these lessons; however, this only constitutes a small portion of the class and curriculum. In fact after graduation, students still typically require substantial training in systems engineering before they can be fully effective within aerospace companies. Furthermore, while practicing engineers typically have one or two areas of expertise, engineers who understand their specialty in the context of the entire system are considered to be the most effective11 and tend to advance toward leading positions in their company or institution.

The Panel on Undergraduate Education lists the following goals of an undergraduate education in engineering14:

• To prepare graduates to contribute to engineering practice by learning from professional engineering assignments; • To prepare them for graduate study in engineering; • To provide a base for lifelong learning and professional development.

Additionally, the Panel on Undergraduate Education emphasizes the need for students to have extensive laboratory experience in their curriculum. They argue that “the concept of the undergraduate student as an experimenter is fundamental to engineering education and to the role

Phillips, K., & Campa, G., & Gururajan, S., & Napolitano, M. (2010, June), Enhancing Aerospace Engineering Education Through Flight Testing Research Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16698

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