The Institute of Flight Mechanics and Control (iFR) works in the field of guidance, control, and navigation of aerospace vehicles and instruments. We are mainly interested in exploring the interface between advanced theoretical methods and practical engineering applications.
Our research areas are:
- Helicopter dynamics and control
- Intelligent flight through automation and assistance systems
- Autonomous flight and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
In this context, we work on methods for flight dynamics modeling and simulation, control, guidance, optimization and optimal control, estimation methods for navigation and identification, and the application of artificial intelligence. We also cover these topics in teaching.
Most of our research activities result in algorithms (for guidance, control, path planning, navigation, etc.), which are implemented on-board various aerial vehicles and demonstrated during flight tests. Therefore, flight testing and real-time computing play an important role at the iFR as well.
The iFR was founded in the summer of 1991 and was first located at Forststraße 86 in Stuttgart-West. Only in 1998, the iFR succeeded in moving to the Campus Vaihingen, where it was first situated at the place of todays „house of the students“. Since 2014, the iFR is located at Pfaffenwaldring 27.
The first director of the iFR, professor Klaus H. Well, PhD, (1940 – 2017) shaped the iFR and its scientific orientation until his retirement in the autumn of 2005. During that period, an average of twelve PhD students worked at the iFR. Only one year after its creation, the required number of courses and exams could be offered. Until today possibilities for specialization at the iFR consist of special courses on control theory (basic theory and aerospace applications), guidance and optimization.
Until 2005, the main research focus was path optimization, also called optimal guidance. In the field of space travel, path optimization is a systematic approach for designing all kinds of trajectories in space. The iFR developed a unique program suite to numerically solve complex path optimization problems (GESOP/ASTOS). The numerous ESA assignments lead to the corresponding model library (ASTOS) reaching a professional level. Path optimization problems and questions were incorporated and worked on as part of master theses and dissertations. Many master students used the opportunity for a stay abroad with American professors in Virginia or Georgia. The commercialization of GESOP/ASTOS, together with other commercial trajectory optimization services, was outsourced in a new company that still exists today as Astos Solutions GmbH in Vaihingen.
At the same time, several research projects were dealing with topics in the field of flight control. For re-entry vehicles not only optimal trajectories were computed but also guidance and control algorithms developed. The airship „Lotte“, built at the ISD, was used as a test platform for the control of airships. At the same time, the iFR participated in the project „Cargolifter“ which took place around the year 2000. The airship flight dynamics model developed at the iFR later became an industry standard.
The control of flexible aircraft (project with Airbus) also relies on extensive model development. Active damping of structural modes requires special sensors and actuators whose precise positioning on the aircraft is crucial for the method to succeed.
During the time of Prof. Well the research projects on helicopter control in cooperation with Eurocopter (now Airbus) were initiated. One research goal is the suppression of vibrations through active control of special flaps in the rotor blades. The control algorithms developed at the iFR have been tested successfully on the helicopter which now stands as an exhibit between Pfaffenwaldring 21 and 27.