Flight Vehicle System Identification from Flight Test

There are 21 stability and control derivatives that are fairly important in the equa­tions of airplane motion. Model testing in wind tunnels provides good measurements of the important derivatives, values that serve the practical purposes of preliminary stud­ies and control system design. Stability derivative predictions from drawings do almost as well.

In spite of these well-established sources, there has been a long-time fascination with the idea of extracting stability and control derivatives as well as nonlinear and unsteady effects from flight test data on full-scale airplanes or large flying models. One argument is that automatic control system design would be on a firmer basis if it dealt with equations of motion using actual flight-measured aerodynamic forces and moments.

14.8.1 Early Attempts at Identification

Of the 21 important derivatives, one and one only can be extracted in flight tests with simple measurements and with a high degree of accuracy. This is the longitudinal control derivative Cms. Longitudinal control surface angles to trim at various airspeeds at two different center of gravity locations provide the necessary data for this extraction, the aerodynamic pitching moment balanced by a well-defined weight moment. This procedure was used to measure Cms on cargo gliders.

Obtaining Cms using a weight moment inevitably led to somewhat ill-considered plans and even attempts to do the same for the lateral and directional control derivatives. The lateral case would require dropping ballast from one wing; the directional case would require dropping wing ballast while the airplane is diving straight down.

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