Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Richard G. Cobb, PhD.


Multi-trajectory automatic collision avoidance techniques for heavy-type aircraft are explored to increase aviation safety procedures and decrease losses due to controlled flight into terrain. Additionally, this research includes flight test results from the United States Test Pilot School’s Test Management Project (TMP) titled Have Emergency Safe Calculated Autonomous Preplanned Exit (ESCAPE). Currently, the heavy aircraft community lacks an automatic collision avoidance system that has proven to save lives in fighter-type aircraft. The tested algorithm includes both a 3-path and a 5-path avoidance technique that is compared to an optimal solution which minimizes aircraft control to avoid terrain. The research utilizes Level 1 Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) to analyze the terrain and a 3-Degrees of Freedom (DOF) Equations of Motion (EOM) model to predict potential terrain avoidance paths for the aircraft based on current location. The algorithm then waits until all paths collide and automatically activates the path with the longest time until collision with an appropriate time safety margin. The research also characterizes terrain based on changing slope and presents a new classification of aircraft based on performance capabilities. The result was used for algorithm parameter specification of path execution times and pre-planned maneuver creation so that the system can be modified for a wide variety of aircraft. Finally, the algorithm was flight tested against DTED in a simulated environment using the Calspan Learjet to determine actual 3 and 5- path performance, parameter specification, and comparison to the optimal solution. The important recommendations include a need for flexible entry parameters based on current aircraft state, continued evaluation of the terrain during avoidance maneuver execution, and more precise control of the aircraft flight path angle. Finally, due to comparison with the optimal solution, it is concluded that an acceptable terrain avoidance algorithm is possible using only a 3-path solution given that all three paths include a climbing maneuver.

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