Control for Aerospace Systems?

  • #1
Hi, MechE student here! I've become quite interested in control theory recently, and I've been studying it a lot. I thought about specializing myself in this field, but also, I want to work with aerospace. The problem is that control engineering looks like a EE field, and I fear that I wouldn't fit in there, since I'm from Meche Eng. My question is: can a mechanical engineer work with aerospace control systems, and what should I study to get in there?
 

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  • #2
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If you have studied control theory and like it, then you should fit in well. There is a lot about aerospace flight controls that is specific to aerospace, so you should look at that some before you make any decisions. On the aerospace aspects, a EE has little or no advantage over you.
 
  • #3
If you have studied control theory and like it, then you should fit in well. There is a lot about aerospace flight controls that is specific to aerospace, so you should look at that some before you make any decisions. On the aerospace aspects, a EE has little or no advantage over you.
Thank you. I still have a plenty of time to make any decision, and I will give a look to some texts specific on aerospace flight controls. Having a deep knowledge of aerodynamics, heat transfer and so would certainly be a plus, right? I think EEs usually don't take those classes in college, and maybe a MechE working in controls would be valuable there.
 
  • #4
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At some (maybe all) companies, the aerodynamics and the flight controls were handled by different specialists. The aerodynamics would be done by a stability and controls person, who would determine the aerodynamic effectiveness of all the surfaces and controls in the range of flight conditions. He would work with the control law specialist who would design a feedback system that would work at those flight conditions. Both specialties included other tasks. The control law expert also designed autopilot functions that are not related to stability. Subjects of growing interest in flight controls involves autonomous controls and coordinated control of multiple vehicles. Someone also has to know all about the air data sensors and alpha/beta sensors so that the measured pressure values can be translated into speeds and angles. There are many more subjects and specialties involved.
 
  • #5
That sounds great. My main interest in control engineering is because it requires knowledge of so many different aspects of a project. All the theory behind it looks pretty much the same, regardless of the field where you are applying it (aerospace, automobiles, industry). So I think that the transition between them wouldn't be very hard, even if I focus on aerospace control systems.
Also, in general, are there more job opportunies for structural engineers (I mean, those working at the "body" of the aircraft) or control engineers?
 
  • #6
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Also, in general, are there more job opportunies for structural engineers (I mean, those working at the "body" of the aircraft) or control engineers?
I don't know. I think the biggest job area (in military planes) is in avionics and avionics software.
 
  • #7
So, what should I study to work with control systems?
I mean, I'm studying basic control theory right now almost for myself (with help of online courses such as eDX and Coursera). But I will also take electives on that in my school. I know Control Systems is a deep field, but to work with those, is a master's degree needed? Or undergrad is enough for some applications (maybe not high specialized applications, like aircraft systems, but maybe industry)?

EDIT: I ask that because I thought about applying for a master's degree on aerodynamics, but also, I would take electives on the Controls Systems Department. Would such a qualification help me get jobs both on aerodynamics and controls? Or would they require a fully control engineer for that?
 
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