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The VAAC Harrier Design Study

RA Hyde
Cambridge Control Ltd, Crowley Road, Cambridge CB4 4WZ, UK.

An experimental flight control law for the Defence and Evaluation Research Authority (DERA) VAAC Harrier has
been developed using H∞ loop-shaping. This paper addresses the use of multivariable design methods for flight
control. Although not currently used for production aircraft, multivariable control may bring real benefits for future
aircraft and RPV programmes both in terms of reduced design time (cost) and enhanced vehicle performance.

R A Hyde
Cambridge Control Ltd, Cowley Road, Cambridge CB4 4WZ, UK.

ABSTRACT partially jet-borne flight regime. Here, a change

in thrust direction (for example) causes changes
An experimental flight control law for the
in the forward, normal and pitching motion of
Defence and Evaluation Research Authority
the aircraft. This results in a high workload on
(DERA) VAAC Harrier has been developed
the pilot, and is a contributory factor in limiting
using H ∞ loop-shaping. This paper addresses the availability of the aircraft in adverse weather
the use of multivariable design methods for and poor visibility conditions. There is also a
flight control. Although not currently used for cost penalty in the extra training and subsequent
production aircraft, multivariable control may flying hours required for pilots to remain current.
bring real benefits for future aircraft and RPV Future ASTOVL aircraft are likely to exhibit
programmes both in terms of reduced design much higher cross-coupling than the Harrier.
time (cost) and enhanced vehicle performance. One reason for this is that the centre of thrust is
likely to act further away from the centre of
gravity for performance reasons.
The experimental flight control law which is
presented in this paper was initially developed at
Cambridge University [1], [2] between 1988 and
1993. At around this time there were a number of
promising new control design methods which
could potentially provide more systematic ways
to design for complex multivariable systems. At Figure 1: The VAAC Harrier
the same time the aerospace community was Such cross-coupled systems are often referred to
beginning to look at more unusual airframes by the control community as multivariable
which could offer better agility and/or lower systems. Designing for this type system using
radar cross-sections. It was generally recognised successive loop closure can be difficult and
that these airframes would present a more necessitate many design iterations. The
challenging control design problem than for fundamental problem is that classical design
aircraft in current development. In the light of approaches generally result in de-coupled
this, a collaborative programme was initiated controller structures. However, it is intuitive that
between DERA Bedford and Cambridge a coupled system requires a coupled controller to
University. The work culminated in flight testing extract the best performance and/or stability
of an H ∞ multivariable controller on the DERA from it. There are a number of multivariable
VAAC Harrier in 1993. This control law is one design methods, one of which is the H ∞ loop-
of a number of control laws being evaluated by shaping approach used here.
The control law described in this paper has been
One aspect of future air vehicles is likely to be designated Flight Control Law 005 (FCL005) by
strong cross-coupling between primary DERA, and is the only multivariable feedback
motivators and outputs under control. The controller flight tested to-date. Thus one of the
Harrier exhibits significant cross-coupling in the objectives of the development of FCL005 is to
demonstrate how multivariable control could be
Copyright  1999 Cambridge Control Ltd. applied to a real engineering problem, and to get
Published by the American Institute of an understanding of any additional complications
Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. with there might be in using a multivariable
permission. architecture for production aircraft. The VAAC
provides the ideal platform on which to do this
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as the control law is not safety critical given the and illustrates the design process. In total, four
aircraft’s independent safety monitor plus safety design points are used in total to cover the hover
pilot configuration [3]. to 250 knots speed range.
FLIGHT TASK The control law only addresses the longitudinal
control of the aircraft. This is the harder design
The purpose of this section is to provide some
task given the vectored thrust capability. The
background information on the particular flight
primary motivators available to the control law
control task studied. The task is recovery to an
aircraft carrier or destroyer. On a conventional
Harrier, a typical approach will involve the pilot • Tailplane and Reaction Control System
bringing down the nozzles (i.e. the direction of (RCS) (which is back-driven from the
the vectored thrust) in discrete steps in order to tailplane position).
replace aerodynamic lift with powered lift as
airspeed drops. This might consist of nozzle • Throttle position
way-points of 20, 40, 65 and 80 degrees. Each • Nozzle angle
time the nozzles are moved, adjustments to the
throttle are required to maintain the long-term • Flap angle
flight path. The pilot operates both the nozzles The flaps are driven in an open-loop schedule as
and throttle with his left hand. The adjustments a function of airspeed, and are not used for
to throttle and nozzle also induce pitching feedback. Thus the feedback control law
moments which the pilot controls with his right demands tailplane, throttle and nozzle angle. To
hand on the stick. improve the linearity of the control design
By appropriate manipulation of the his three problem, a controls selector is used with input
primary inputs, the pilot needs to: demands of normal and forward thrust in body
axes, and outputs of throttle and nozzle servo
• Maintain flight path demands. The controls selector also compensates
• Use available aerodynamic lift safely for the non-linear relationship between throttle
through appropriate control of incidence setting and resulting engine thrust.

• End up in the hover alongside the ship Key to a good design is to choose an appropriate
control law architecture. The pilot wishes to
The strategy being investigated by DERA is to command airspeed and flight path changes, and
reduce the associated high pilot workload with to have the control law manage the use of
this task by using a two-inceptor strategy. In aerodynamic and powered lift effectively. In
essence this means that the pilot directly controls particular the aircraft incidence needs to be kept
flight path and deceleration/airspeed with two within safe limits. From experience with earlier
primary controls (inceptors). The third degree of versions of FCL005, the resolved thrust demands
freedom is handled automatically by the control can not be used much above 1.5 radians/s
law. Thus the control law has to manage the without causing potential problems with nozzle
balance between using aerodynamic lift (via backlash and the control law’s cancellation of the
appropriate incidence) and powered lift (via non-linear throttle-thrust relationship. However,
appropriate vertical thrust component). This the tailplane and back-driven RCS system can be
presents a particularly challenging control used up to about 7 radians/s.
problem given the strong cross coupling between
the three primary motivators and the forward, The ability to use higher open-loop cross-overs
normal and pitching motions. in the pitch loop suggests that an inner loop pitch
rate feedback could be used to reduce the effect
LINEAR DESIGN of the induced pitching moment when thrust
magnitude and direction are changed. The inner
Full details of the linear designs carried out for
loop also serves to reduce the effect of
the version of 005 flight tested in 1993 can be
turbulence on the pitching motion. An inner
found in [4]. Since then the control law
pitch loop was therefore designed for FCL005,
architecture has been updated. This section
and feeds back the composite measurement
describes the updated linear design at 137 knots
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q + θ . This has the effect of using q to set the of [5]. This optimal controller will have cross-
terms, and take account of the cross-coupling in
loop-shape at cross-over, and θ to achieve good
the plant.
gain below cross-over. This idea is explained
more in [4]. The plant G in Figure 2 includes Pade
approximations for the 20 ms computational
A three-input three-output outer feedback loop is delay and first order roll-off filters on each input.
then placed around this inner loop. The outer 1
loop controls normal and forward acceleration, The roll-off filters have the form ,
and incidence. Figure 2 shows a schematic block 0.0435s + 1
diagram of the feedback structure. The inclusion and are implemented on each of the aircraft
of incidence as a feedback variable follows from measurements. These are in addition to filtering
the requirement to use available lift and to keep already included in the aircraft software
away from the incidence limit. However, instead environment. Including the roll-off filters at the
of choosing normal and forward accelerations, actuators for design is legitimate as an identical
flight path angle and airspeed could have been transfer function on all loops can be
chosen. The reason for choosing normal implemented anywhere without changing the
acceleration is that the pilot commands plant singular values. The structure and design of
accelerations. The alternative of feeding the pilot the controller is now described in more detail.
demand through an integrator to give an Inner loop feedback of q + θ
equivalent flight path demand introduces
unnecessary lag which would result in poor The inner loop feedback was designed using
handling qualities. classical loop shaping. The compensator is pure
The outputs controlled at 137 knots are chosen to proportional control:
be: Wq ( s) = 3.0
• x + λ x x The possibility of using a combination of phase
advance and integral action to boost the
• z + λ z z performance of this inner loop was also looked
at. However, this was found to reduce the
• α (incidence)
performance achievable from the outer
where λi are constants, x and z are body axes multivariable controller. The open loop cross-
over is 4.6 radians/s. Figure 3 shows the open-
accelerations, and x and z are body axes loop Nichols plot. The region bounded by the
velocities. The addition of velocities to the dotted line is an exclusion region which the
acceleration measurements provides a way of Nyquist plot should not enter for a robust design.
implementing speed holds (equivalently airspeed
and flight path holds) in the steady-state. At The inner loop feedback gain is scheduled as a
higher airspeeds where the nozzles are fully aft, function if indicated airspeed so as to just satisfy
this Nichols exclusion region requirement.
control of z + λ z z is washed out. Given good
control of the three primary outputs as defined Multivariable outer loop
above, the required flight response types can The plant input weight for the three-input three-
then be implemented through appropriate design output outer loop controller is given by:
of a precompensator.
2 
The H ∞ loop-shaping design approach consists s 
of selecting open-loop weighting functions for  3 
the nominal plant. This weighting process is W1 ( s) =  
exactly like classical loop-shaping, and is carried  s 
out without regard to the plant cross-coupling.  3
An optimal controller (in the H ∞ loop-shaping  s 
sense) can then be synthesised using the solution
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The design plant was also scaled at the input by of the controller matrices. The ‘full order’ 21
3 0 0  state design for 137 knots was model reduced in
Si = 0 3 0  , and out the output by
the same way.
0 0 10 The current version of FCL005 does not use
controller coefficient interpolation. Instead, the
0.2 0 0 controller outputs are interpolated (see next
S o =  0 0.2 0 . The scaling of inputs and section). Hence the controller can be reduced
 0 0 1 directly. The 21 state controller designed for the
137 knot operating point was model reduced
outputs follows the design procedure guidelines using balanced truncation of a normalised
given in [1]. Scaling is important as it can be coprime factorisation of the controller. Model
used to trade-off the relative amounts of cross- reducing the coprime factors of the controller
coupling seen between loops. Figure 4 shows the and then re-constructing the controller from the
shaped singular values. The open-loop cross- reduced order factors generally results in lower
overs are in the range 1 to 2.5 radians/s. The orders being achievable than if the controller is
shaped plant was discretised using a zero order reduced directly. This is because the
hold (i.e. sample and hold), and direct discrete normalisation step indirectly has the effect of
time H ∞ used to synthesise K∞ . In order to get weighting the reduction around open-loop cross-
the controller in discrete time observer form, the over frequencies. Table 1 shows the results of
discrete time solution in [6] isused. The final using this method of reduction. The second
controller has 21 states, and achieves a column gives the δυ -gap between the 21 state
robustness margin of ε = 0.40 . Time responses controller and the controller of order given by
are shown in Figures 5, 6 and 7. the first column. The third column gives the
In the original version of 005, the linear designs coprime factor robustness actually achieved by
also made use of the align algorithm proposed in the reduced controller.
[7]. This essentially aligns the singular values at
a chosen frequency (typically cross-over) with a
It has been found that that the δυ -gap is a good
constant real matrix. The effect on robustness of measure of the preservation of controller cross
using the align algorithm is an open area of terms and hence decoupling. Based on the results
research. In practice, if the align matrix is ill- in Table 1, and time response analysis, an eighth
conditioned (i.e. has large gains in some order controller was chosen. This gives near
directions and small gains in others), then identical time responses to those shown in
robustness may be compromised. Use of the Figures 5, 6 and 7.
align matrix can help obtain better time-domain If the controller is implemented in a modal form
de-coupling than not using it. With FCL005 it (i.e. where the A-matrix is diagonal), then the
makes a minor improvement, and it was decided number of parameters which are needed to define
that the extra complexity was not justified. it is 8 for the A-matrix, 8*3 for the B-matrix, 3*8
MODEL REDUCTION for the C-matrix and 3*3 for the D-matrix giving
a total of 65 parameters. Implementing this
The complexity of a multivariable controller can controller would require 54 additions and 65
be reduced using standard model reduction multiplications per controller update.
methods. In the original version of 005 [4], the
controller order was reduced by model reducing An attempt was made to improve the 5th order
the design plant before design. The model controller using the δν -gap minimisation
reduction was restricted to those dynamics which optimisation proposed in [8]. After 10 iterations,
remained constant between operating points i.e.
the δν -gap was reduced to 0.0971, indicating a
the sensors, actuators and time delays. The
aircraft and engine states were not included in much improved match. However, the time
the model reduction as this would have resulted domain performance with the reduced order
in adjacent controllers not having the same controller is poor. It is concluded that the best
structure which in turn prevents gain scheduling realisation in terms of the performance versus
complexity trade-off is the 8 state controller.
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This is not a particularly high order when it is An alternative to interpolation of controller
considered that the controller is three-input coefficients is to interpolate controller outputs. In
three-output. In other words, each input-output this approach all of the controller designs are run
pair averages less than one state. It would seem in parallel, and the particular controller’s outputs
highly likely that no simpler controller used to drive the actuators is selected according
implementation can be found which does not to current flight condition. The advantage is that
degrade either stability or performance. the controller structure is no longer required to
be the same from one design point to the next.
This allows the use of direct model reduction of
Controller δν -gap ε achieved the controller as discussed in the previous
order by reduced section. It also allows the feedback structure to
from full change from one design point to the next. This
order order
controller allows a different structure to be used in the
controller hover for FCL005. For the hover, the inner loop
21 0 0.4017 pitch rate damping is blended out between 100
and 80 knots, and incidence control is blended
20 0 0.4017 out in exchange for pitch attitude control.
19 0 0.4017 In order to ensure that the controller states
18 0 0.4017 remain consistent with the actual plant inputs (as
opposed to the controller outputs), an observer
17 0 0.4017 form is used for K ∞ . The observer is then
16 0 0.4017 driven with actual plant inputs instead of the
demanded ones.
15 0 0.4017
If the controllers use different weighting
14 0 0.4017 functions, then each of these need to be run in
13 0.0020 0.4017 parallel as well. With FCL005 the weighting
functions are implemented in the form shown in
12 0.0033 0.4017 Figure 8. This form was originally proposed in
11 0.0114 0.4017 [9]. This same structure is also used to allow for
actuator saturation e.g. maximum/minimum
10 0.0133 0.4017 thrust and nozzle angle limits.
9 0.0215 0.4018 The implementation in Figure 8 is derived as
follows. Suppose the open loop controller is
8 0.0341 0.4018
given by:
7 0.0900 0.3749
v = AK v + BK y
6 0.0929 0.3751
u = C K v + DK y
5 0.2256 0.3553
By left multiplying the output (second) equation
Table 1 : controller order reduction
by matrix H , and subtracting from the first
GAIN SCHEDULING equation, an equivalent (in terms of input-output
The original implementation of FCL005 [4] response) realisation is:
implemented the controllers in observer form so v = ( AK − HC K )v + ( B K − HDK ) y + Hu
that controller gains could be interpolated as a
function of flight condition. This resulted in four u = C K v + DK y
20 state controllers, each defined by 640 floating The eigenvalues of the controller are now set by
point numbers. Implementation required
interpolation of each of these numbers every AK − HC K . Under normal operation, these
time step, and was a high computational poles are not seen by the system under control.
overhead. However, in the event of input saturation, the
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state equation can be driven by the achieved during the flight. This is testament to the control
control input, u . This is illustrated in Figure 8. law having sufficient robustness to any
For the 137 knot design, the poles of differences between the design model and the
AK − HC K were assigned to –5, -6 and –7 aircraft. For first flight trials, the tests carried out
went very smoothly. This may in part be seen as
radians/s. The choice of pole location is a trade-
a result of the coprime factor uncertainty
off between tracking current inputs and not
modelling being appropriate for the actual
propagating sensor noise.
uncertainty encountered between the model and
Another alternative approach which was used for the aircraft.
the original implementation of FCL005 is that
Currently the control law is undergoing further
proposed in [10]. However, this approach
evaluation and development, and it is hoped that
requires the pre-compensator to be invertible
the designs presented in this paper will be flown
which, in the case of the 137 knot controller
in the near future. Post-flight stability analysis is
described here, it is not.
also planned using the methods developed and
IMPLEMENTATION applied to the VAAC in [11]. The approach
enables an upper bound on the achieved value of
The control law was originally implemented in ε to be determined.
FORTRAN for non-real-time simulation and for
piloted simulation on the DERA simulator. For APPLICATION TO FUTURE AIRCRAFT
implementation on the aircraft the FORTRAN
Flight control law 005 has been developed for an
version was converted by hand to CORAL. The
experimental research aircraft. To the author’s
control law is now implemented in Simulink.
best knowledge, no multivariable control law has
The top control law level is shown in Figure 9.
ever flown on a production aircraft. One of the
Figure 10 shows simulation results of a stick free
objectives of the development of FCL005 was
deceleration to hover. Flight path is controlled
therefore to look at whether there would be
within about a degree of its set-point down to 50
additional complications in flight clearing a
knots. At lower speeds that this height rate is
multivariable control law. The three main issues
controlled as flight path becomes ill-defined.
considered are:
DERA have updated the aircraft hardware and
software so that Real-Time Workshop (RTW) • Visibility i.e. how easy is it to understand
can be used to produce the flight code from the the operation of the control law i.e. how
Simulink implementation of the control law. As easy would it be for another engineer to pick
has already been pointed out, the experimental up the design party way through?
flight control code is not safety critical because • Stability i.e. how do you demonstrate that
of the VAAC independent monitor and safety the potentially de-stabilising effect of
pilot configuration airframe cross terms has been rigorously

The control law was first tested on the VAAC • Numerical i.e. are there additional numerical
Harrier in 1993 [4]. It engaged first time without and/or implementation issues associated
significant transients. For the control law to be with a multivariable state-space
engaged, it must be demanding actuator implementation.
positions within ten percent of their actual It could be argued that visibility of multivariable
positions. The observer implementation state-space controllers is less than their single-
combined with off-line conditioning of W1 input single-output transfer function counterparts
ensures that the demands are close, and it was in a conventional design. The state-space
commented that the control law engages very implementation contains states which are shared
quickly. between several input-output pairs. Furthermore,
from a block diagram it can not be seen what the
Within the first two flights, the whole design controller does, whereas the effect of a simple
envelope right down to the hover was explored. lead-lag term, integrator or roll-off is clear.
There was no sign of the onset of instabilities However, there is a converse argument. With a
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multivariable controller, to understand the reason appropriate to the actual differences between the
for the controller dynamics you have to go back aircraft and the aircraft model.
to the design formulation and requirements. The
However, before such methods are used for
visibility comes from understanding how the
production aircraft, the potential benefits in
design method meets the requirements. For a
terms of reduced design costs and increased
coupled system for which conventional design
performance need to be quantified. The updated
and stability analysis methods are stretched to
version of FCL005 described in this paper could
the limit, it could be argued that an optimal
go some way towards doing this. The control law
multivariable approach actually gives better
is now sufficiently mature for more detailed
handling qualities assessment.
This leads onto the second point about
On the flight clearance side, work is on-going
demonstrating that the controller has sufficient
with DERA Bedford to identify the main issues.
stability margins. Requirements for current
In the author’s view, given a proven advantage to
development aircraft are typically based on
using a multivariable control law, the issue of
exclusion regions in the Nichols chart for
clearance is not insurmountable. Current work is
individual loops. This is augmented with tests
directed towards relating coprime factor
involving simultaneous gain and phase offsets in
uncertainty to currently used Nichols exclusion
all loops. For any cross-coupled (multivariable)
region tests. Related to this is the determination
system, this may not be an optimal approach, and
of achieved stability margins from flight data.
is likely to produce a conservative design.
Furthermore, it does not directly take account of ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
uncertainty in the cross terms. Alternative
measures of robustness which are suitable for The earlier design work was carried out with
coupled systems are available. The coprime Professor K Glover at Cambridge University
Engineering Department. The work has been
factor uncertainty measure used for FCL005 is
one example. supported by DERA Bedford via Cambridge
University and more recently via Cambridge
The third issue concerns numerical aspects. In Control. The work at Cambridge University was
the same way as for simple transfer functions, also supported by the Science and Engineering
care is needed when implementing a state-space Research Council (now EPSRC).
compensator. A major process difference is that
for classical controllers the numerical REFERENCES
implementation issues may be left to the [1] Hyde, R.A. and Glover, K. “The application
software engineer. For a multivariable of scheduled H-infinity controllers to VSTOL
compensator it may make better sense for the aircraft”. IEEE Transactions on Automatic
flight dynamics & control engineer to specify Control, July 1993. Volume 38, Number 7
numerical scaling. This is because he has more
insight into what the controller does. Updates to [2] Hyde, R.A., Glover, K. and Shanks, G.T.
the control law (e.g. based on new aerodynamic “VSTOL first flight of an H-infinity control
data) will result in changes to the numbers in the law”. IEE Computing and Control Engineering
state-space matrices. Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, pp 11-16,
February 1995.
[3] Shanks, G.T. and D’Mello, G.W. “Adding
The development and flight testing of Control Confidence to Future STOVL Integrated
Law 005 has demonstrated the practicality of Designs”, Royal Aeronautical Society
multivariable and H ∞ control. The method International Powered Lift Conference, 2-4th
provides a systematic way to design for highly September 1998, London UK.
coupled airframes. Coprime factor uncertainty [4] Hyde, R.A. “ H ∞ Aerospace Control – A
may also provide a more appropriate stability
metric for such airframes, regardless of control VSTOL Flight Application”. Advances in
design method used. Successful flight testing Industrial Control series, Springer 1995. ISBN 3-
adds confidence that the uncertainty set used is 540-19960-8.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
[5] Glover, K. and McFarlane, D.C. “Robust College, University of Cambridge, December
Stabilisation of normalised coprime factor plant 1992.
descriptions with H ∞ -bounded uncertainty”. [9] Astrom, K.J. and Wittenmark, B. “Computer
IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, Controlled Systems Theory and Design”,
34(8):821-830, 1989. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1984.
[6] Iglesias, P. “Robust Adaptive Control for [10] Hanus, R., Kinnaert, M. and Henrotte, J.L.
Discrete Time Systems”. PhD thesis, University “Conditioning technique, a general anti-windup
of Cambridge, 1991. and bumpless transfer method”, Automatica
[7] Kouvaritakis, B. “Characteristic Locus 23(6):729-739, 1987.
Method for Multivariable Feedback Systems [11] Davis, R.A. “Model Validation for Robust
Design”. PhD thesis, University of Manchester Control”. PhD thesis, University of Cambridge,
1974. January 1995.
[8] Vinnicombe, G. “Measuring the Robustness
of Feedback Systems”. PhD thesis, Churchill


xb + λx xb

zb + λx zb

G α
Weight, W1 ( s)

Wq ( s) q
q +θ

Figure 2: control law feedback structure

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1 Step on azcg+zlam*vz





−180 −170 −160 −150 −140 −130 −120 −110 −100 −90 −0.2
phase (degrees) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Figure 3: Nichols plot for the pitch rate loop Figure 6: normal acceleration step response
Step on incidence
Shaped singular values 1.2

2 1

0 0.8

−2 0.6

−4 0.4

−6 0.2

10 0

10 −0.2
−2 −1
10 10
0 1
10 10
2 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Figure 4: shaped singular values Figure 7: incidence step response

Step on axcg+xlam*vx





0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Figure 5: forward acceleration step response

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r e v v u N u G ( s) y


Figure 8: block diagram of K ∞ implementation with self-conditioning

1 2
stick 8 em
stick dead−band speed demand
and offset disti1 (demx)


+ + em + Mux 1 5 K
+ em Mux K + +
out meas scale2
blend out AZF 0.1*ETADA ++
+ scale
− 0.1 4
+ alfad
0.1 measurements
wsys(V) 7
schedule 3

precompensator + disto2
3 inv(scale) 1/z
FLAG130 Mux − em 6
q+thetr achieved
2 actuators


Figure 9: Simulink implementation of FCL005

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flight path (degs)






0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90


airspeed (knots)




0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90


incidence (degs)

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90


attitude (degs)

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90


nozzle angle (degs)




0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90


fan speed





0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
time (seconds)

Figure 10: simulation of a deceleration to hover on the non-linear model

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