Smart Fixed-Wing Aircraft: Controlling and Testing a Shape Memory Alloy based actuator

Staff Mentor: J.W. van Wingerden (Jan-Willem)

Other Mentor(s):

A. Lara Quintanilla, S.T. Navalkar.


Aerospace systems; Data driven and fault tolerant control; Wind energy; Learning and adaptive control


Fixed wing aircraft are designed to work optimally at only one flight condition parameters (Speed, altitude…), but most of these parameters vary during the flight. For this reason, systems to change the shape of the airfoil during the flight are under investigation. A promising solution is the application of deformable (and controllable) surfaces, which can change the aerodynamics of the wing, resulting in drag reduction and lift increase.

The actuator under investigation is a flat and thin surface made out of a flexible polymer, and Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) wires are used as smart material to bend it. This actuator will be applied as an extension to the trailing edge of the airfoil, in order to create a smart and deformable trailing edge.

The student will develop different control systems based on PID, Fuzzy Logic Controllers (FLC) and a combination of both (PID supervised by a FLC). The actuator will be tested at different working conditions and the data analysed to find out the advantages and disadvantages of the different control strategies as well as their performance.

Its nonlinear and hysteretic behavior makes SMA hard to be controlled. Moreover, some degradation has been observed on the SMA performance. Therefore, designing and applying a “Self-Learning Control System” based on Neural Networks is a great option for SMA based actuators.

Schema of an aerofoil with a controllable surface at the trailing edge

© Copyright Delft Center for Systems and Control, Delft University of Technology, 2017.