Skip to main content
Intellect

BYU researchers awarded DOD grant to improve testing of Air Force jets

An Air Force test pilot dives, banks and loop-de-loops the latest fighter jet at extreme speeds to push it to the limits. As the pilot completes a series of barrel rolls, ground crews analyze the plane’s structural data, which is streaming from two antennas mounted on board, designed to monitor the jet prototype’s safety and performance.

Until recently, this test would have required numerous runs and off-site analysis, but the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded Brigham Young University researchers nearly $1 million in grant money to develop technology that streamlines the testing communications process and saves money.

“When the government wants to buy an airplane, it has to be fully tested—the more expensive it is to test an airplane, the more expensive the plane is,” says Michael Rice, the Jim Abrams professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering. “You don’t want to cut corners on reliability or safety, but if you could reduce expenses in testing, the airplane would be cheaper and everyone would be safe.”

Previously, airplanes used only one antenna to send data to ground crews, but the signal dropped whenever the plane banked and obscured the antenna from the ground. The jet had to be refueled, the equipment and personnel reassembled, and the mission re-flown to acquire the missing data. To solve that problem, two antennas were mounted to transmit signals from the top and bottom of the plane. A new problem emerged, however: when jets with two antennas flew parallel to the ground, both antennas transmitted signals simultaneously, interfering with each other and masking important data about the jet’s performance.

The solution came in the form of theoretical analysis by Rice and Michael Jensen, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and two graduate students, who demonstrated the viability of the multi-antenna solution in a series of papers published at the International Telemetering Conference in October. The researchers received Air Force grants administered out of Edwards Air Force Base in California in the last two years to complete further analysis and build a prototype transmitter that was mounted on a small plane. The BYU researchers will use the DOD grant to develop and test a prototype receiver that interprets the relationship between the two antennas’ signals and translates them into separate streams as the plane flies, allowing data analysis to occur on-site.

“The technology gets rid of those data drop outs so we don’t have to refuel and retest,” said Saul Ortigoza, executing agent for spectrum efficient technologies at Edwards Air Force Base. “That’s a big plus from a test-range perspective. It saves us a lot of money, and it’s pretty exciting.”

The technology solves the antenna dilemma in commercial jets as well, Rice said, referring to another possible application of his work.

“When they are testing a new prototype commercial jet, they put the whole notion of ‘the tray table in its upright and locked position’ in a new perspective,” Rice said, explaining that airlines gather data about their new planes just like the military. “They do hard turns, landings with one engine off—things they’d never do with passengers to ensure the plane is safe.”

Writer: Lexi Allen

Rice, Michael-L.jpg

Read More From

Related Articles

data-content-type="article"

Going cashless to prevent COVID-19 was useless, new BYU microbiology study finds

May 12, 2022
A new study published in PLOS ONE from BYU scientists finds that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is almost immediately nonviable if deposited on a cash banknote. The virus actually shows greater stability on plastic money cards, with the live virus still being detected 48 hours after initial deposition, but no viable virus was detected on either cash or card that was randomly sampled in the study.


overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

BYU student’s research solves an icy dwarf planet mystery

May 09, 2022
The dwarf planet Haumea has befuddled modern scientists for years. New BYU research details the planet's creation and solves one of astronomy's puzzles.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

When it comes to buying stuff, who do you trust to sell it: Government, nonprofits or for-profits? BYU study says...

April 26, 2022
Covid-19 tests were in short supply two months ago, but now testing options abound, from free tests mailed by the U.S. government to those available from pharmacies and nonprofit healthcare providers. All other factors being equal, is there an advantage to accessing a test through any one of these avenues?
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText=