Flight testing of nap-of-the-earth unmanned helicopter systems

Eric N. Johnson, John G. Mooney, Chester Ong, Jonathan Hartman, Vineet Sahasrabudhe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

14 Scopus citations


This paper describes recent results from a partnership between the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and the Georgia Institute of Technology to develop, improve, and flight test a sensor, guidance, navigation, control, and real-time flight path optimization system to support high performance Nap-of-the-Earth (NOE) helicopter flight. The emphasis here is on optimization for a combination of low height above terrain/obstacles and high speeds. Multiple methods for generating the desired flight path were evaluated, including (1) a simple processing of each laser scan; and (2) a potential field based method. Simulation and flight test results have been obtained utilizing an onboard laser scanner to detect terrain and obstacles while flying at low altitude, and have successfully demonstrated obstacle avoidance in a realistic semi-urban environment at speeds up to 40 ft/s while maintaining a terrain/obstacle miss distance of 50 ft horizontally and vertically. These results indicate that the technical approach is sound, paving the way for testing of even lower altitudes, higher speeds, and more aggressive maneuvering in future work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication67th American Helicopter Society International Annual Forum 2011
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Jul 28 2011
Event67th American Helicopter Society International Annual Forum 2011 - Virginia Beach, VA, United States
Duration: May 3 2011May 5 2011

Publication series

NameAnnual Forum Proceedings - AHS International
ISSN (Print)1552-2938


Other67th American Helicopter Society International Annual Forum 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirginia Beach, VA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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