Instrumentation and Recording of Flight Test Data
In all operations of unmanned air systems (UASs), it is important that good-quality logs and records are kept, see Figure 20.1 for example. This matters as much for routine operation as it does for tests during system development. Clearly, details need to be kept of airframe and engine hours to enable the specified maintenance schedule to be followed, as do details of charging cycles on any batteries that are repeatedly charged and discharged. In addition to normal pilot logs, during test flying we typically log all autopilot data to onboard secure digital (SD) cards and/or to the ground station computer for subsequent analysis. This should allow for positional and acceleration data to be logged as well as control surface inputs. We have also found it useful to attach small, self-contained video cameras to a wing tip and rudder
Figure 20.1 Typical flight log.
tip so that footage of the aircraft’s behavior is readily available and can be correlated against the autopilot data. Should any failure in-flight or during taxi tests then occur, it will be much simpler to understand the nature of what has happened. If the aircraft is being flown under a regulatory authority permission, this will also assist in filing any incident reports that may be needed. To coordinate all this, it is useful to designate an airframe engineering role that is distinct from the other flight team roles to ensure that suitable data is properly curated.