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KU Aerospace Short Course Program

Flight Testing Unmanned Aircraft Systems - Unique Challenges

Instructor: George Cusimano
Printable Course Information (PDF)

Course Schedule

September 12-14, 2017, San Diego, California

Early registration course fee: $1,895 if you register and pay by July 28, 2017*

Regular registration course fee: $1,995 if you register and pay after July 28, 2017*

*Note: The 2017 printed catalog incorrectly states that you may register and pay for this course through August 4, 2017 in order to receive the early registration discount. The correct date is July 28, 2017.

San Diego Lodging and Travel Information

You can also bring this course to your workplace. Learn more about our on-site program.


Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are comprised of an unmanned vehicle (UAV), a manned control element(s), and various data and control links. Although unmanned, the vehicle is still an aircraft and must be tested with the same rigor and precision as manned systems. However, being “unmanned”, and being part of an integrated system, UAVs demand unique flight test approaches that present corresponding challenges. If these challenges go unmet, the UAS Development Test and Evaluation (DT&E) program often experiences unacceptable cost and schedule overruns, which in turn could lead to program termination. This course introduces the primary challenges associated with flight-testing remotely piloted and command-directed (a.k.a. autonomous) vehicles; with primary emphasis on Tactical, MALE and HALE class systems. The course also recommends solutions to these challenges that are meant to either mitigate or eliminate potential problems before they become unmanageable.

Includes instruction, course materials, refreshments and lunches.
The course notes are for participants only and are not for sale.


  • Fundamentals of flight test—review the purpose of flight test and evaluation and discuss the flight test and evaluation process as it applies to UAS testing.
  • Typical test requirements—review both typical user requirements and certifying airworthiness requirements.
  • UAV Flight Operations—review the current regulations for conducting UAV flight operations within both the National Airspace System and on national test ranges. Discuss the present state of sense and avoid requirements and technology, and the resulting impacts to flight test operations.
  • Typical UAS architectures—review the system concept and understand why it is necessary to know typical UAS architectures in order to assure a successful flight test program.
  • UAV software and modeling—examine the level and complexity of UAS software testing and appreciate the need for systems level flight test.
  • UAV design characteristics—appreciate the basis for UAV designs with emphasis on those features that create development and test challenges.
  • Typical UAV ground and flight-testing—review the most problematic areas of UAV ground and flight test.
  • Risk analysis and management—review the risk management process and how it applies to UAV testing.
  • Cause-Effect/Effect-Response method to mitigate flight test challenges—introduce a new methodology designed to help mitigate UAV flight test problems.
  • Human factors considerations—discuss the application of human factors principles to UAS command and control design and test.
  • First flight(s) planning—discuss the unique aspects of UAV first flight(s).
  • Lessons learned in UAV flight testing—share UAV lessons learned.
  • Summary of UAV unique challenges— Review the top 20 flight test challenges presented in the course.

Who Should Attend?

The course is designed for practicing flight test engineers, test pilots, test managers, aircraft engineers, aircraft designers and educators who already possess a fundamental understanding of flight test principles and practices. The course content is appropriate for civilian, military and academic researchers.

Times / CEUs

21.00 classroom hours
2.100 CEUs

Certificate Tracks

Flight Tests and Aircraft Performance, Unmanned Aircraft

Learning Objectives

  • Fundamental flight test and evaluation principles.
  • How modern, complex, highly integrated, and software intensive UAS designs contribute to flight test challenges.
  • How and why the current restrictions to UAS flight operations exacerbate flight test challenges.
  • Risk management principles as they apply to UAV flight test.
  • The Cause-Effect / Effect-Response (CE-ER) method to mitigate potential UAV flight test problems.
  • Human factors principle and why they are important to UAS command and control.
  • The unique challenges of UAV first flight(s).
  • The methods, processes, and/or procedures required to minimize the effects of UAS challenges on program cost, schedule and risk of the challenges presented.
  • Share UAV flight test lessons learned.

Course Outline

Day One

  • Introduction and history
  • Fundamentals of flight test
  • Typical requirements
  • UAV Flight Operations
  • Typical UAS architectures
  • Software and models

Day Two

  • UAV design characteristics (1)
    • Mass properties and structures
    • Aerodynamics
    • Flight controls
    • Propulsion systems
  • UAV design characteristics (2)
    • Data and control links
    • Health monitoring
    • Mission planning
  • Human factors considerations for UAS command and control
  • Classroom exercise

Day Three

  • Risk management
    • Test Hazard Analysis
    • Cause-Effect / Effect-Response
  • Typical ground and flight tests
    • Taxi and ground control
    • Take-off and landing
    • Cruise and climb performance
    • Stability and control
    • Closed loop handling qualities
  • First flight(s) planning
  • Lessons learned in UAV flight testing
  • Summary of test challenges
  • Classroom exercise

NOTE: Unique flight test challenges are discussed along with the topics listed above as appropriate.

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On-site Contact Information

To learn about bringing a course to your workplace, contact Sarah Williams, on-site program manager, for a no-cost, no-obligation proposal.
Email ProfessionalPrograms@ku.edu
Phone 913-897-8782

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