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Director, AF Control Science Center Leads Seminar at UT Space Institute

Siva S. Banda, a leading authority on aerospace control science, predicted major aerospace control challenges “in the near future” during a recent visit to The University of Tennessee Space Institute.

Banda, Director of the Control Science Center of Excellence, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, toured UTSI’s Flight Research Center and later presented a seminar titled “Aerospace Controls: The Way Forward.”

Banda stressed the inter-disciplinary challenges faced by the “controls community” in the aerospace arena where he expects “increased complexities.”

“We will address control science issues and research covering a broad range of air and space vehicles,” he said. These challenges will include unmanned and micro air vehicles, reusable space launch vehicles, air-breathing propulsion engines, autonomous air refueling, structural, and aerodynamic flow control challenges, Banda said. For instance, he commented that micro air vehicles have a problem avoiding collisions with wires.

“Banda is a member of the National Academy of Engineering in the United States, which in my opinion is one of the highest honors that a technical person can receive,” Donald C. Daniel, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of the Institute, said in introducing the speaker. “President Bush recently awarded him the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award. We are extremely fortunate to have him at the Space Institute.”

Rick Peters, executive director of Arnold Engineering Development Center, joined Banda and Daniel for lunch and then accompanied Banda on a tour of AEDC. Peters once worked with Banda in the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Stephen Corda, head of UTSI’s Aviation Systems program, discussed efforts to elevate this fast-growing academic program while also increasing research opportunities.

“We don’t teach students how to fly or how to become test pilots,” Corda said. “Our focus is on flight test engineering and research.” (Some of the students in the program are test pilots as are Corda and Assistant Research Professor Rich Ranaudo.) Several graduates of the program are astronauts.

Corda cited varied research proposals and projects, including some proposed in theses by graduate students such as a design of a Mars airplane.

Daniel mentioned the possibility of UTSI’s future collaboration with Middle Tennessee State University, where students are taught flying. He also cited the Institute’s plans to build a larger flight research center at the Tullahoma airport.

“We’re pushing hard for this,” Daniel said. “It is my number one priority.” He said he hopes private gifts will supplement state funding for the estimated $11 million facility, which he sees as “a catalyst for economic development in this area.”

Banda’s current research efforts focus on cooperative control of multiple unmanned air vehicles, guidance and control of access-to-space vehicles, and aerodynamic flow control. He is a recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Control Systems Technology Award and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and IEEE.

Ranaudo discussed the many useful applications of UTSI’s Variable Stability Navions in simulating various conditions, particularly useful in his icing short courses to mimic icing conditions. George Masters, a former test pilot instructor at Patuxent River and member of UTSI’s theses committee, also discussed a proposal for design, analysis, and optimization of aircraft and aircraft flight control systems.