Air-to-Air Data Acquisition

We did something really cool last weekend.

Since the Featherweight Boom, PotDAQ, and the rest of the instrumentation we've developed is wireless, you don't actually have to be in the test aircraft to receive the data. Since the second neutral point flight required single-crew in the KR for CG purposes, we had to crew up a little differently. Diane flew chase in the Tiger, and Colin Bowman sat right seat in the chase aircraft. The division of labor was pretty simple:

  • I flew test in the KR, and was responsible for flying the points per the card and calling the data band entry and exit over the radio.
  • Diane flew chase and was responsible for spotting traffic, maintaining appropriate separation, and keeping the test aircraft in range (something on the order of 200 ft) during test points.
  • Colin served as FTE from chase's right seat, and carried the data acquisition laptop equipped with an AirDAQ USB to receive test data. He was responsible for calling data quality "good" or "bad" during a test point, filling out the flight cards, and calling my fuel transfers.

The flight started off with a well-executed airborne pickup and Colin calling good data as soon as the Tiger was within a couple hundred feed. The data acquisition was seamless and low-workload, requiring no configuration or extra steps on the part of the chase FTE to get things going. We were able to start marching through points as soon as we got to altitude.

The flight was cut short due to a rather exciting mechanical issue in the KR (I'll have to loop back and cover this in another post), but I was thrilled to demonstrate this capability and work through the logistics of flying a multi-aircraft mission. This is the second time we've shown this off (the first was early on in the test program), and the first with production hardware and multiple sensors; the system has again proven to be an incredibly useful way to reduce test pilot workload and keep an FTE in the loop on flights that wouldn't accommodate this with traditional data acquisition.

Great day.