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Agility Prime: Jump Aero and Caltech win USAF contract

By Chris Stonor

Jump Aero announced this week in partnership with Caltech, a Phase 1 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research contract award from the USAF as part of the Agility Prime program, reports a press release.

California-based Jump Aero has collaborated with Caltech to develop an “electronic parachute”, an adaptive flight controller “pre-tuned in simulation for various failure scenarios with a machine-learned neural network that will enable the pilot of the JA1 eVTOL aircraft to initiate rapid recalibration of the flight controller in mid-air in the event of damage.”

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This adaptive/ML control technology has the potential to improve the probability of a safe outcome if the aircraft is physically damaged in flight without significantly increasing the training burden on the pilot.

Carl Dietrich, Founder & President of Jump Aero, commented, “We look forward to working with Professor Soon-Jo Chung’s world-class autonomous systems controls laboratory at Caltech to mature this exciting new technology in the hope that a future electronic parachute will make our aircraft even more damage-tolerant.”

The press release continues, “adaptive, complex, and non-deterministic flight control systems have been impractical to certify due to the need to prove a level of safety in all scenarios that is commensurate with accepted standards.” And goes on, “The need for deterministic proof of safety of arbitrarily complex systems has prevented these complex control systems from being commercially viable.”

Recently, the FAA certified the first autonomous landing function for use in emergency situations, thereby demonstrating a realistic path to bring such technologies to market, as emergency recovery systems. Jump Aero has partnered with Caltech to explore the potential of leveraging this pathway to bring an adaptive/ML recovery function to market on the JA1 eVTOL as an “electronic parachute”.

Jump Aero was founded to help the every-day heroes of our society: First Responders. The company’s mission is to enable them to fly to the scene of an emergency as fast as possible and, presently, is developing the JA1 eVTOL aircraft.

The research conducted as part of this AFWERX STTR contract has the potential “to improve the operational safety of future Jump Aero products” and “pave the way for safety enhancing flight control systems across the broad spectrum of Advanced Air Mobility.”

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