Welcome to the College Mathline Blog

This blog accompanies the College Mathline television program produced by Palomar College

Here you can post a question for us or a comment about the show. You can also find information on our "real world" applications of mathematics.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

unmanned aircraft

This week we showed our visit to Northrop Grumman where we talked with several of their engineers and employees about how math is used in their design of unmanned aircraft, especially the new X-47B jet being developed. One of the key features of these craft are numerous control systems that are used to pilot the craft. Each control is basically a closed loop system that constantly compares the current state of a quantity to a goal value and makes adjustments. This happens many times each second and allows the jets to navigate and land smoothly and safely. One kind of control used is called a PID controller which stands for Proportional-Integral-Derivative. Yes, that's integral and derivative straight out of calculus class. The control uses these three quantities in combination in order to make adjustments quickly but smoothly that avoid overshooting a target value.

We also learned that Northrop Grumman is in need of talented engineers, even in the current economic environment. And, the people working there love what they do! See what math can do for you?

For further reading:

Northrop Grumman's X-47B site

career opportunities at Northrop Grumman

Wikipedia entry on PID controllers

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