Flight control of DEP aircraft using differential thrust has been identified as an enabling technology for ARMD's Strategic Thrust #3 (Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles) and #4 (Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion). In particular, it is a major component of the envisioned hybrid electric distributed propulsion (HEDP) integrated autonomous controller (IAC) (a.k.a. "super controller") which is sought to realize the proposed efficiency, safety, and reliability of HEDP aircraft. Upon completion of this study, the team will be able to apply their experience in DEP flight control system development to other NASA flight test programs such as the X-57 "Maxwell" and the upcoming Ultra-Efficient Subsonic Transport (UEST) X-Plane program. Additionally, lessons learned from the program regarding the as-built effectiveness of and additional requirements associated with control using DEP differential thrust can inform conceptual design studies for futuristic aircraft "Vision Vehicles" including ESAero's ECO-150 and NASA's STARC-ABL and N3-X.
The knowledge gained from this STTR study in conjunction with other ongoing research efforts would enable ESAero to independently develop integrated aircraft controllers (IAC) for hybrid electric distributed propulsion (HEDP) systems. With the growing emergence of HEDP aircraft designs, this ability to take such a highly nuanced system and make it fly both safely and efficiently will be in high demand by commercial and military customers. Additionally, the tools developed as a result of this study can be marketed for engineering of commercial, government, or military aircraft applications and conceptual designs. The development of a validated, robust DEP UAV flight test bed will also provide a one-of-a-kind experimental capability for an emerging niche technology. This platform can be used for commercially-funded testing of industry DEP concepts as distributed propulsion aircraft move towards production.