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Final Year Projects Academic Year 2008/2009
                           

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF FLIGHT SIMULATOR COMPONENTS (part 1)           

Student : Analiza Abdilla
Supervisor: Ing. Brian Zammit

Introduction                             
As part of the ongoing research in the field of aeronautics, the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering is currently designing a full flight simulator (FFS) to enable pilot evaluations and preliminary assessment of innovative on-board technologies. Being a distributed system, each component will be dedicated to a specific function and will interact with the simulator using a suitable data bus. This is also true for the cockpit hardware which will interact with the aircraft flight model computer, ideally through the same communication architecture in order to minimize interconnections.                             
                             
Project Objectives
This project focuses on the interfacing techniques which will be used to interface the overhead panel to the flight computer. This project is required to solve the problem of having large amounts of data lines,replacing them with an effective and robust communication technique to reduce cabling and crosstalk.Three popular buses, namely I2C, CAN and Ethernet were considered with the latter selected due to the readily available support within the simulator network.                             
                             
Project Methodologies
The adopted methodology for the implementation of the whole set-up was as follows:                             
• Review of typical aircraft overhead panels, particularly the A320 model                             
• Identification of all the input and output devices usually found on such panels                             
• Review of possible data bus technologies and selection of a suitable architecture to minimize amount of data cables                   
• Selection of a microcontroller system with TCP/IP support.
• Development of a suitable data structure to transfer digital/analogue information between two parties over Ethernet                     
• Multiplexing and demultiplexing techniques for the respective overhead panel inputs and outputs to be connected to the limited number of microcontroller GPIO data lines.                             
• Coding of a mock up flight computer to emulate typical flight data on the Ethernet network.                             
• Construction of the hardware and interfacing of all panel switches and knobs                             
• Implementation of the software function to manage the multiplexing and demultiplexing circuitry,decode the network information and relay packets to and from the overhead panel.                             
• Construction of the hardware and testing of desired operation                             
                             
Results and Achievements
In view of this, the proposed model is based on Ethernet which conceptually resembles the current AFDX data bus found on new aircraft such as the Airbus A380. In this configuration, all the subsystems communicate over a full duplex Ethernet system. Data is relayed using the User Datagram Protocol, which is able to outperform TCP in speed within local area networks. The current state of the project is that an I/O subset of the overhead panel has been multiplexed and the system was verified to operate as specified.The system is currently being expanded to cater for all the required inputs and outputs.                          


                           

INDOOR BLIMP – CONTROL MODULE                 

Student : Edward Apap
Supervisor:  Ing. Paul Debono
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Ing. David Zammit Mangion

Image_2009_A    

Introduction
As part of an effort to design and construct an indoor blimp, this project was concerned with the design and implementation of the hardware and software required to control an indoor blimp. The blimp is primarily intended to be used in the faculty for promotional purposes. The construction of the blimp structure and its communication system is being done in other projects.                             
                             
Project Objectives
The aim was to build a control system capable of navigating the blimp in space. The system has to be operable using either a manual radio remote control (RC) system or by following instructions from the communications board developed in the other project. Data from sensors had to be sent to the communications board when requested. Similarly the system was required to keep itself updated by requesting data from the communications board.                             
                             
Project Methodologies
• Familiarization with RC systems and programming of AVR microcontrollers in C.                             
• Research and design of tachometers based on the Hall Effect.                             
• Implementation of PD controllers used to regulate the speed of the motors.                             
• Implementation of a hardware interface to set the PID parameters, complete with a four-digit display.                             
• Design and implementation of a serial full-duplex communications protocol on both the microcontroller and on the PC.                   
• Development of an application written in C# capable of retrieving real-time results from the control board as well as serving as a simulation platform for the communications module.

Results and Achievements

All the results were observed in real-time on the application developed for this purpose. The actual speed of the motors was observed to be very close to the reference value, confirming correct operation of the PD controller. The implemented serial communications protocol was verified to operate correctly and reliably, and in fact was used by the developed application to test the whole system.                          


                           

SIMULATION OF A TYPICAL FLIGHT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM                

Student : Roderick Bartolo
Supervisor: Ing. Brian Zammit

Image_2009_B           

Introduction
Flight simulators are extensively used in the aviation industry for the design and development of conceptual aircraft design, evaluation of avionic mock-up systems, as well as crew training in both civil and military domains. This project looked into innovative ways of replicating and enhancing the function of a Multifunctional Control Display Unit (MCDU) to eventually form part of the ongoing development of an immersive A320 based aircraft simulator which is being constructed by the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering at the University of Malta.
                             
Project Objectives
To study the functionalities of a typical flight management system (FMS),such as that of an Airbus A320 using C# .net framework. To replicate the interface functionalities of the FMS using reconfigurable displays and touchscreen technologies. To validate the interface functionalities.

Project Methodologies
• The system’s requirements were evaluated and a wide range of possible implementations and technologies were considered and studied.
• A highly iterative Agile Extreme Programming (XP) Software Development Methodology was adapted and experimentation with the above technologies immediately started to unveil the strengths, weaknesses and possible applications for each technology. Several prototypes were developed to demonstrate the possible various functionalities of the MCDU.
• A prototype MCDU and a Development Kit was developed by December 2008 with a Communication Protocol used to talk with external applications. This served as the ground basis of further development; however the MCDU was entirely redesigned by mid March 2009 to cater for more modularity and ease of customisation.
• Throughout late March and April 2009, X-Plane Flight Simulator SDK in C and C++ was studied in depth and an interface library was developed, exposing the flight’s simulation data. X-Plane was then interfaced to the MCDU using this function library. This library can be used in the future by developers to interface with X-Plane.                          

Results and Achievements
A highly configurable and dynamic MCDU FMS Client was developed capable of communicating with a wide range of devices ranging from microcontrollers to web services and flight simulators.                          


                                                      

A CONTRACT PROTOCOL FOR TRAFFIC CONFLICT MITIGATION IN AVIATION           

Student : Graziella Bonnici
Supervisor: Dr. Ing. Andrew Sammut       

Image_2009_C                

Introduction
The problem of runway incursion (RI) in commercial aviation is of serious concern to the aviation industry. The biggest challenge for aviation safety is traffic growth, which is projected to increase at a 5% rate per annum. Consequently, at current safety levels, an unavoidable increase in the number of RIs is expected. On average one runway incursion occurs in the United States every day and one every two days in the United Kingdom alone. Only a small percentage of these are of serious events but nevertheless this constitutes a major threat to aviation safety since the risk of collision is ever present and when a disaster strikes the result can be catastrophic. Fortunately, the incursion problem has been exhaustively studied by dozens of experts, and mitigations have been devised that can greatly lessen the risk inherent with ground operations today. All runway incursions can be linked to human error and the awareness about the problem has to be increased among all the involved organisations to prevent RIs.
                             
Project Objectives
The aim of this project is to devise a bi-directional protocol between two conflicting parties on the runway, with the scope of liaising together to determine the safest and most efficient mitigation actions required to avoid the conflict. In essence, this study deals with the development of a contract safety-critical protocol capable of being set up between several parties, on which information regarding the type of conflict, each parties possible escape manoeuvres and the preferred solution is transferred, whilst taking into consideration the timing of the scenario.
                             
Project Methodologies

The development of the protocol was based upon the Contract Net Protocol (CNP) which was originally proposed by Reid G. Smith in 1980. It is a fully automated negotiation and has two types of agents, the Initiator and the Contractor. CNP specifies the interaction between these agents for fully automated competitive negotiation through the use of contracts. Within the scope of this study, the agents are the two conflicting parties in a RI.
CNP is mainly composed of a sequence of four main steps:
• Initiator detects RI and sends out a task announcement or a call for proposals (CFP).
• Contractor reviews CFP’s and bids on the feasible solution to mitigate the RI.
• Initiator chooses best bid and awards the contract to the contractor. Initiator abides with the bid selected.
• Contractor executes the chosen bid through the award and sends feedback to the initiator.
                             
Results and Achievements
The use and implementation of the CNP in a RI environment which in itself is dynamic and complex was achieved. The message content was implemented as required in the given application and a solution was proposed to negotiate between the conflicting entities. A bi-directional UDP link between the two conflicting parties was implemented in C# and the message content information between the two console applications can be easily monitored with any network protocol analyser.                          


                           

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF FLIGHT SIMULATOR COMPONENTS (part 3)           

Student : Mario Busuttil
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. David Zammit Mangion

Image_2009_D     

Introduction
The Department of Electronic Systems Engineering at the University of Malta is developing its flight simulation facilities. This application requires the development of human machine interface (HMI) components such as switches, knobs, lights, dials, and numeric displays which are typically existent in the cockpit of the aircraft being simulated.
                             
Project Objectives
The aim of this project is to design and construct the interfacing circuitry for the glareshield of the Airbus A320. The glareshield hosts the FCU (Flight Control Unit) and the EFIS (Electronic Flight Instruments). The solution was required to be microcontroller based. It reads and controls the relevant HMI components and consolidates the information to the host PC via Ethernet. The PC running the Flight Simulator Software then replies back with the display information to the HMI.
                             
Project Methodologies
The following steps were carried out during the implementation of the project:
• Literature review for choosing the best microcontroller on which the required TCP/IP stack could be implemented
• Implementation of the TCP/IP stack on the ARM Cortex-M3 Microcontroller
• Design of the necessary electronics to efficiently poll the 512 inputs and outputs present on an A320 glareshield
• Design of the schematics to be put in the A320 glareshield
• Design and manufacturing of the actual PCBs required for glareshield itself
• Implementation of the programming logic on the microcontroller.
• Integration and validation of the design by simulating the Flight Simulator Software using a custom made C# application.
                             
Results and Achievements
The major result of this project is the actual implementation of the necessary electronics to gather all the data from the switches, knobs, lights and dials shown in Figure 1, and relay that information to the Flight Simulator Software. The Flight Simulator Software would then reply with the necessary display data, which is outputted on the displays shown in Figure 1.This project required C and C# programming, digital electronic design and PCB design using CAD software. PCB manufacturing skills were also acquired in the development process.                          

                           

            

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF FLIGHT SIMULATOR COMPONENTS (part 2)           

Student : John Ellul
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. David Zammit Mangion                   

Image_2009_E

Introduction
Flight simulators have been around for quite some time. These systems have been primarily produced for pilot training affording a cheaper alternative to actual flying. Flight simulators have been refined to closely replicate the response and manoeuvrability of a real aircraft. Indeed, these systems have, today been used by the military, aircraft manufacturers, and operators to test and evaluate new systems. To this effect, the commercially available simulators are usually a replica of some available commercial or fighter aircraft.
                             
Project Objectives
To design and construct all the necessary electronics required to successfully interface flight simulator components to a microcontroller environment and also to design models of the central pedestal for future fabrication.
                             
Project Methodologies
• Literature review of common central pedestals architecture of typical commercial aircraft to identify common on-board functionalities and selection of a data protocol to use for the transmission of data (Ethernet, I2C, CAN network).
• Test server and client implementation - In the absence of a flight computer, the programming of a test server which emulates the function of the flight computer had to be done.
• Designs for fabrication of the central pedestal using AutoCAD
• Design and implementation of electronics which caters for sufficient inputs and outputs (Approx 450).
• Software design and implementation of the central pedestal hardware with the microcontroller
• Final implementation of the hardware connected to an Ethernet network.
                             
Results and Achievements
Research was conducted on the central pedestal and used as basis for the thesis. Ethernet was chosen as the transmission protocol. The test server was programmed using C# and functions correctly. All hardware has been designed, tested and built onto PCBs. The components and microcontroller were interfaced and function correctly. All models have been designed.                          

                           

                 

INERTIAL MEASUREMENT IN LIGHT-WEIGHT HEAD-MOUNTED DISPLAY SYSTEMS   

Student : Kenneth Fonk
Supervisor:  Ing. Marc Anthony Azzopardi

Image_2009_F

Introduction
Ever since the demand for head-motion tracking came about, engineers and scientists have strived to develop this technology and implement the ultimate head-motion tracker. Several technological improvements such as miniaturization, powerful processing devices and lightweight designs have since been created. Such desirable breakthroughs have allowed for a wave of innovative implementations to be designed thus encouraging technologies such as head-motion tracking to be pushed to its limits.
                             
Project Objectives
Throughout this dissertation, a study on the available methods for measuring the six degrees of freedom required for full head-motion tracking has been carried out, identifying inertial measurement techniques to be the favored method of implementing such trackers due to their light-weight, low-cost, high-accuracy and high data rate features. The main objectives consisted of designing a test setup through adequate hardware selection, whilst researching and applying the necessary algorithms to develop an ideal headmotion tracker. The performance issues relating to the system implementation were explored and evaluated in order to validate the use of inertial measurement techniques throughout head-tracking systems.
                             
Project Methodologies
The project deliverables were modularized into the following steps:
• Conducted a literature survey, where possible head-tracking technologies were compared and selected;
• Established and exploited the parameters and limitations which govern the system;
• Researched various inertial measurement techniques whilst exploring the theoretical, mathematical and physical properties required to develop such a system;
• Designed and assembled a prototype for testing and evaluation purposes;
• Tested and validated the overall system design and choice of measurement techniques;
• Designed and constructed a fully functional refined product to demonstrate the design’s idealistic nature as a head-tracker due to its sleek, light, wireless and non invasive layout and structure. The design implemented made use of two tri-axis accelerometers on either side, a single-axis gyroscope about the pitch axis, as well as a two-axis magnetometer for yaw measurements. Tilt and rotation algorithms were implemented for obtaining orientation parameters, whereas a unique position algorithm was designed and tested to obtain incremental position data. The final design represents a fully functional, wireless headtracker, which processes and relates data back to the PC via a Bluetooth connection.
                             
Results and Achievements
The overall system delivers accurate and satisfactory results for yaw, pitch and roll orientation parameters. Possible orientation errors are corrected during quasi-static instances through absolute readings. Improved results could be achieved by adding a single-axis gyroscope about the roll axis to further stabilize readings during linear motions as well as swapping the existing magnetometer to a three-axis version to compensate for yaw measurements during tilt sequences. Additionally, positional data was also obtained, however due to the incremental nature of such data acquisition, drift errors inevitably occurred. Thus a secondary system capable of obtaining absolute positional data is being suggested as future work. The encouraging results strongly support the use of inertial measurement techniques as a means for head-tracking for headmounted display (HMD) systems.                          
                           


                           

ENSURING SAFETY AND STABILITY MEASURES ON A CRANE           

Student : Anna Marie Galea
Supervisor:  Prof. Charles Pule'                 

Introduction
A crane is a mechanism that can be used to lift objects, transport them from one point to another and lower them down again. They are used in many applications, such as harbours, industries, and on the construction sites. Crane size and capacity vary according to the purpose of their use. It is not uncommon to subject the crane for an overload condition, where it can lead to the capsizing of the crane, twisting or bending of the boom, or destruction of the object itself. The overload condition, which leads to instability of the crane, is a function of the weight that is being lifted, the radius of operation, and also the length of the boom. Stability is also affected by the operating wind conditions, the ground conditions, and the improper use of outriggers.
                             
Project Objectives
The main objective of this thesis is to help the reader to analyze better the stability of a crane. This would include going into deep stability calculations, using simple moment equations. Such calculations would help in analyzing the effect of wind forces on the crane, crane clearances, the resulting loads on the supporting axes, and the ground support reaction due to these loads. Experiments of speed and torque control were also to be expected. Lastly but not least, a simple overload detection system is to be developed. This system should provide the crane operator with useful information regarding the radius of operation, the length of the boom, and the weight of the object that is being lifted. If the crane is subject to an overload condition, the crane operator would neither be allowed to raise the load, nor to lower the boom.
                             
Project Methodologies
The project studies the stability of the crane, when lifting or lowering a load, and also the site of operation parameters, of which the crane operator should be aware of while on the workplace. The following steps were carried out during the implementation of the project:
Stability against overturning of the crane, including
• the effect of wind forces, using moment equations
• Crane clearances, such as lift and swing clearances, and the supporting loads on the outriggers that will be developed, while lifting a load. This also included a procedure to design the dimensions of the timber material that needs to be placed underneath the outriggers
• Deep analysis of dynamic modeling of the DC motor, and the speed control and torque control of these motors
• Experimental circuit for speed and torque control
• Development of a simple overload device, using PIC microcontroller
                             
Results and Achievements
The study regarding the stability of the crane would help the reader to understand better the crane characteristics, when in operation, in which the picture is seen from the mathematical side. The experimental results helped also to appreciate the physics of what is actually happening when lifting or lowering a load. Also, the overload detection system would help the crane operator to monitor continuously the operation of the crane, without any extra knowledge of how the system is working.

                           

    

AIRCRAFT GROUND MOVEMENT MODELLING      

Student : David Muscat
Supervisor:  Prof. Ing. David Zammit Mangion                     

Image_2009_G         

Introduction
The design of the landing gear is an important aspect of the structural design of an aircraft. This is because during landing, taxiing and takeoff the fuselage and landing gear are subjected to great forces and vibrations. Particularly the landing gear impact has been recognized as one of the main factors which contribute to structural damage, stresses on the airframe and passenger discomfort. Preliminary design and simulation of landing gear dynamics is essential to ensure that the highest technological standards are achieved whilst at the same time ensuring mandatory safety standards.
                             
Project Objectives
The aim of this thesis was to develop a tricycle model of the aircraft which models the vertical dynamics in air and on ground. Also a tyre model was identified which models the horizontal dynamics of the tyre on ground. The landing gear model will then be combined with an aircraft model to obtain a complete air and ground aircraft model as shown above.  

Project Methodology
The project was divided into the following phases:
• Literature review on tyre models, strut and landing gear modelling.
• Coverage of the following topics:
   a. Theoretical overview of airliner landing gear.
   b. Theory involved in tyre dynamics and modelling.
   c. Shock strut dynamics and possible modelling of similar systems such as car suspensions and bouncing balls.
   d. Numerical integration methods.
• Selection of tyre model and familiarizing with mathematical derivation of the model.
• Modelling of single strut on ground and in air with single and multiple wheels.
• Extending model to a double strut and tricycle system.
• Validation of numerical correctness of models.
• Simulating models with realistic aircraft parameters.
                             
Results and Achievements
The tyre model was simulated under different slip conditions and the relevant forces and moments obtained were analyzed. The tricycle system was subjected to different initial conditions and bounce simulations were obtained. This thesis served to introduce the relevant theory involved and derive the fundamental models. These models will be incorporated with flight models being developed by the Electronics Systems Engineering Department to obtain full flight models and simulations which will implemented in a simulator.                          


                           

A NAVIGATION ALGORITHM FOR AIRBORNE PLATFORMS                  

Student : Daniel Parascandolo
Supervisor:  Dr. Ing. Andrew Sammut                    

Image_2009_H

Introduction
The problem of navigation has existed ever since man began travelling. Whereas past techniques in this field relied on human intervention, modern systems are all pushing toward autonomous systems that are capable of travelling from one point to the other independently. Indeed, in the realm of aviation, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft designed with this functionality as its main objective. In order to attain its goal, a UAV uses navigational algorithms for high-level control of the aircraft to determine the high-level manoeuvres required to move from one point to another.
                             
Project Objectives
The aim of this project is to formulate, implement and finally test a robust navigation algorithm that will be capable of navigating a UAV through a set of waypoints in three-dimensional space and time using a set of different navigational techniques.
                             
Project Methodologies
The project was carried out in the following manner:
• Research on navigational techniques: Past, Present and Future.
• Detailed and thorough study of the fundamentals of navigational calculations that make the latter techniques possible, including but not limited to: earth modelling, co-ordinate systems transformations, distance and bearing measurements.
• Determination of the appropriate calculation methods to be used in the context of a microprocessor controlled UAV through method performance tests.
• Design of the navigation algorithm.
• Design, implementation and testing of a robust software test-bench that will provide the required simulation facilities for testing and verification of the algorithm’s design and implementation.
• Implementation and testing of all the components that make up the algorithm, as well as testing and verification of the system as a whole.
                             
Results and Achievements
The test-bench was the first task completed by amalgamating the industry standard X-Plane® flight simulator and Google Earth™. This allows for efficient, comprehendible and realistic testing of the navigator. Figure 1 above shows the front-end real time output of the test bench. On the other hand, the navigator designed is currently capable of two modes of navigation: waypoint to- waypoint homing and path following. In addition, it also incorporates features such as corner turn smoothening and tolerance to wind disturbance. Figure 2 shows the results obtained for the former two techniques.

                           

A NAVIGATION ALGORITHM FOR AIRBORNE PLATFORMS

Student : Jean Paul Satariano
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. David Zammit Mangion            

Image_2009_I

Introduction
When projecting an image on a wall perpendicular to the lens assembly of an unmodified projector, the resulting output image that is visible on the screen will be rectangular, having a width-to-height ratios (aspect ratios) depending on the projector specifications (mostly 4:3 or 16:9). However, if the same image is projected onto any other surface, being either a flat surface not perpendicular to the projector lens assembly or any curved surface, the output image will be distorted. The level of distortion depends entirely on the shape of surface and the angular displacement of the projector from the screen.
                             
Project Objectives
The scope of the project is to produce a “correct image” on a curved (cylindrical) screen when using an unmodified projector. For the purposes of this dissertation, “correct image” means that:
• When standing at the centre of curvature of the screen, the correct aspect ratios of the image/video are displayed. This means that if, for example, the source object is a square (aspect ratio 1:1), the output aspect ratio at the screen will still be 1:1. As a result of this, a horizontal line in the source image (or video) will be correctly displayed as horizontal on the screen.
                             
Project Methodologies
The project basically involves the software design and implementation of an algorithm capable of prewarping a sequence of images (or video) so that it can be viewed, without distortion, onto a cylindrically curved screen. The hardware version of the project (FPGA) will, in due time, form part (the image processing required) of the flight simulator being designed by the department of Electronic Systems Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering.
The project was divided into 6 phases:
Phase 1:Literature review and research based on:
• Understanding the requirements for successful warping
• Understanding the (external) functioning of a standard video projector
• Discovering detailed functioning of MATLAB
Phase 2:Experimenting and testing of different warping algorithms and analyzing their usefulness for the required tasks
Phase 3:Testing trial algorithms on a makeshift screen (using cardboard)
Phase 4:Designing a larger-scale screen for accurate measurement and testing
Phase 5:Implementing the most efficient algorithm on video samples at a projector offset of zero degrees (projector is perpendicular to centre of screen)
Phase 6:Extending the warping concept for offset angular positions of the projector from the centre of the screen
Phase 7:Detailed testing and statistical analysis of the results by accurate measurements on screen.
                             
Results and Achievements
The testing procedure involved the creation of test images and videos that could eventually be projected on the screen to verify the correct functioning of the designed algorithm. Figure 1 shows how the source images (a) and (d) need to be modified through the software created in order to be correctly visible on the screen. Images (b) and (e) show the images that need to be projected through the video projector when the projector lens assembly is perpendicular to the centre of the screen (offset of 0˚). Images (c) and (f) demonstrate the images that need to be projected when the projector is placed at a horizontal offset of 10˚ to the left of the centre of the screen. Note that this time the images are not symmetrical about the vertical axis. Also, although not clearly visible due to the size of the images, the images are not uniform along the horizontal axis either.
                             
                           

                           

 

                           

 

                           
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Last Updated: 22 October 2012

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