In-Flight Simulator Aircraft


Calspan Aerospace’s fleet of Learjet In-Flight Simulators (IFS) are routinely utilized as effective Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) surrogates. These aircraft have two unique abilities. First, their flying qualities can be manipulated so that their in-flight motion mimics another aircraft’s flying qualities. In doing so, they provide real world flight motions, visuals and stress levels that cannot be duplicated in any ground simulator. Second, they can be utilized as a testbed aircraft for testing another aircraft’s sensors and systems.

The Learjet platform provides a safe way to test unmanned systems by providing a fully programmable autonomous flight control system with an on-board safety pilot ready to take control in case of an anomalous event. The UAV system under test can be as simple or complex as our customer requires.

The Learjets have been instrumental in the development of U.S. Air Force and Navy UAV Autonomous Aerial Refueling and Sense and Avoid programs. Configured as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft, the in-flight simulator aircraft have been flown to touchdown by test pilots “flying” from a ground station.

UAV Surrogacy Slide8


The capabilities of our UAV Surrogacy team include:

  • Developing and testing UAV systems, sensors, and algorithms in real flight environment
    • Using production or prototype hardware and/or host algorithms within Calspan’s aircraft computers
  • Integrating UAV systems with a programmable, full authority Fly-by-Wire flight control system to provide closed-loop control of the aircraft
    • Safely testing developmental UAV systems in a manned UAV surrogate
    • On-board safety pilot monitoring aircraft response, ready to take control at the push of a button
    • Automatic safety trip system monitors aircraft states to prevent excursions beyond limits to prevent unsafe flight conditions from occurring
  • Safely testing UAV systems’ high-risk flight regimes under autonomous control
    • Landing approach to touchdown
    • Close formation with other aircraft
    • Aerial refueling to contact position

Recent programs that Calspan Aerospace UAV surrogates have supported include:

  • Autonomous Aerial Refueling (AAR)
    • Boom/Receptacle for U.S. Air Force
    • Probe/Drogue for U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Air Force Sense and Avoid (SAA)
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) curriculum development for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

Flight Testing Uav


Calspan Aerospace customers that engage our expertise in UAV Surrogacy receive innumerable benefits, including:

  • Flying piloted maneuvers to check out sensors and control laws for data gathering and as a buildup to closed-loop control by the UAV system
  • Ample space for multiple flight test engineers inside the aircraft during flight test events
  • Choosing where the flight test is conducted
    • Calspan’s hangar in Niagara Falls, NY provides:
      • All facilities required to install equipment in aircraft
      • Office space for flight test team
      • Space for control room or ground station
      • Access to dedicated airspace for flight test missions
    • As an alternative, we’ll bring our UAV surrogates to a customer facility or designated flight test location