Automated flight test: A new step in our adventure for populating the sky
Does the expected quality of a flight depend on weather conditions or the test plan vary according to operator feelings?
In Embention, we say no.
Each new software modification or sensor inclusion is subjected to a complete test process by the Verification department. The main goals are reproducibility and repeatability in all the tests, with a specific pass or fail criteria to ensure that autopilot works properly in every moment, and any change does not suppose a potential risk for the platform. On his side, PDI department members carry out flight tests and ensure these are done well and all the parameters are kept inside the desired limits. However, all this work is not done automatically, and test tasks devolve on the engineers.
From now on, Embention wants to take a step forward in its search for automation and optimization of its verification processes, and joining forces between these two departments. In this sense, we have implemented our first automated flight tests. In this way, it is possible, on the one hand, to check pass/fail criteria during test without a post-flight study, or being continuously monitoring the test (variables are checked to be within a range); and on the other hand, to reduce test time, since the whole test is designed before flying.
Now, the engineer only has to select the test and run it. Moreover, all the results are stored in order to have a good database for the future.
For achieving this goal we had to redesign test tools to avoid closing the test when the vehicle is flying. When a test fails, continuing with it has no sense, thus the main objective is that the test totally passes. However, this could entail problems during flight, when the most important thing is to keep the platform safe. A new test mode has been implemented, which allows the operator to stop the test without modifying the vehicle flight.
As the processes are automated the error due to the human factor is considerably reduced. In Embention we are committed to a continuous improvement to reduce any error source.