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The Construction And Flight Testing Of A Scaled, Remotely Piloted, Flight Test Vehicle

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.510.1 - 4.510.7

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Paper Authors

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Michael J. Hinton

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Charles N. Eastlake

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

Session 2206

The Construction and Flight Testing of a Scaled, Remotely-Piloted, Flight-Test Vehicle

Michael J. Hinton, Charles N. Eastlake Cessna Aircraft Company/Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


The high cost of prototype flight testing can be a limiting factor in the optimization of new designs as they proceed from the drawing board to the flight line. The use of low-cost scaled models to predict full-scale prototype performance is the focus of this project. It will be shown that by strictly following geometric and dynamic scaling criteria, the scaled aircraft’s flight performance can be predictably related to the full-scale aircraft’s performance. Although many companies have performed scaled flight-testing of Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV’s), published non-proprietary information about low-cost, scaled flight-testing is essentially non- existent. The focus of the project at hand, therefore, is to compare the in-flight performance characteristics of a 1/3-scale flying "prototype" of a Cessna 172P to the well-documented in- flight performance characteristics of a full-scale Cessna 172P. Much flight testing has been done by the Aerospace Engineering department at ERAU, using the 172P, such that using this aircraft as the model for determining the validity of the scaling hypotheses is considered technically sound. The author, with the aid of students from capstone design classes at ERAU, designed and constructed a 1/3-scale replica 172 as the flying test-bed from which a series of future scaled prototype projects will draw vital conceptual and procedural ideas. The model 172 will be flown by remote control and will have an array of on-board sensors to collect information about key flight characteristics. Along with the on-board data acquisition system and real-time display ground base, the craft will also have a real-time video/audio link to the ground to allow the pilot to fly maneuvers using visual flight cues comparable to those he would have in the real plane.


A new aircraft often spends many years progressing through the stages of conceptual and preliminary design. After a prototype is built, the aircraft begins the long process of flight testing. Depending on the size of the project and complexity of the aircraft, this stage usually takes years to complete. Whenever such amounts of time are spent on developing the aircraft, the costs quickly rise. If problems should arise during flight testing, the result could be an extension of the flight test plan and a further increase in the project cost.

There are, however, alternative methods to producing the desired data required to complete the analysis of a new design. One of these--wind tunnel testing--has been utilized since the days of the first aircraft. According to Eastlake 1, wind tunnel testing can be a quick and relatively

Hinton, M. J., & Eastlake, C. N. (1999, June), The Construction And Flight Testing Of A Scaled, Remotely Piloted, Flight Test Vehicle Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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