Table of Contents
Smart Materials Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 238314, 8 pages
Research Article

Multistrand, Fast Reaction, Shape Memory Alloy System for Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Flight Control

Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Kansas, 2120 Learned Hall, 1530 W. 15th St. Lawrence, KS 66045, USA

Received 15 November 2011; Accepted 14 June 2012

Academic Editor: Marcelo A. Trindade

Copyright © 2012 M. Brennison et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper details an investigation of shape memory alloy (SMA) filaments which are used to drive a flight control system with precision control in a real flight environment. An antagonistic SMA actuator was developed with an integrated demodulator circuit from a JR NES 911 subscale UAV actuator. Most SMA actuator studies concentrate on modeling the open-loop characteristics of such a system with full actuator performance modeling. This paper is a bit different in that it is very practically oriented and centered on development of a flight-capable system which solves the most tricky, practical problems associated with using SMA filaments for aircraft flight control. By using well-tuned feedback loops, it is shown that intermediate SMA performance prediction is not appropriate for flight control system (FCS) design. Rather, capturing the peak behavior is far more important, along with appropriate feedback loop design. To prove the system, an SMA actuator was designed and installed in the fuselage of a 2 m uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) and used to control the rudder through slips and coordinated turns. The actuator was capable of 20 degrees of positive and negative deflection and was capable of 7.5 in-oz (5.29 N cm) of torque at a bandwidth of 2.8 Hz.