Aircraft and Rotorcraft System Identification Engineering Methods for Piloted and UAV Applications with Hands-on Training using CIFER®

Instructed by Dr. Mark Tischler

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  • This course utilizes a combination of lectures, interspersed with associated hands-on lab exercises (aircraft and rotorcraft) to be completed by the students on their own computers using a 2-month trial of the CIFER® Pro version, provided with the course, at the discretion of the software distributor. Course notes and student software for hands-on exercises will be available for download.
  • All students will receive an AIAA Certificate of Completion at the end of the course

This comprehensive course reviews the fundamental methods of Piloted and UAV aircraft and rotorcraft system identification for determining flight dynamics and control models from test data with Hands-on Training using CIFER®. The course illustrates the benefits of the broad application of system identification throughout the flight vehicle development process and provides the attendees with an intensive hands-on training of the CIFER® interactive system identification software suite using flight-test data and extensive Lab exercises. Each lecture reviews the next step in the system identification process, covering key principles, flight-test methods and typical flight-test results. Then, the student uses the intuitive CIFER® software to conduct this step in a structured Lab Exercise using flight-test data. By the end of the 4-day course, the student will have completed the entire identification process of extracting and verifying a flight dynamics model of a rotorcraft or fixed-wing aircraft from flight-test data using CIFER®. New lecture material covers special considerations and typical system identification results for multi-copter, eVTOL/UAM configurations, how system identification results can be used to validate and update physics-based flight simulation models, and “model stitching” that combines identified point models and trim data into an accurate full-flight envelope simulation. Students receive access to on-line course notes, a copy of the course text authored by the instructor, and access to the CIFER® software. The many examples from recent piloted and UAV aircraft programs illustrate the effectiveness of this technology for rapidly solving difficult integration problems. The course will review key methods and computational tools but will not be overly mathematical in content.

The key objectives of this course are to: (1) review the fundamental methods of Piloted and UAV aircraft and rotorcraft system identification methods with Hands-on Training using CIFER® and illustrate the benefits of the broad application of system ID throughout the flight vehicle development process; (2) provide the attendees with an intensive hands-on training of the CIFER® system identification, using flight test data and 10 extensive Lab exercises. Students will work on comprehensive laboratory assignments using a demo copy of the CIFER® software provided to course participants. This requires the student to have a PC laptop running either Windows 10 or Windows 11, or a Mac laptop running macOS 10.14 (Mojave), macOS 10.15 (Catalina), macOS 11 (Big Sur), macOS 12 (Monterey), or macOS 13 (Ventura).


  • Overview of system identification methods and applications
  • Flight testing and instrumentation for handling-qualities and piloted/UAV control system development
  • System ID of piloted and UAV aircraft and rotorcraft dynamics and control from flight test data
  • Special aspects for system ID of multi-copter eVTOL/UAM configurations
  • Model stitching to build accurate full flight envelope nonlinear model from system ID point models
  • Use of system identification results for physics-based simulation model fidelity analysis and improvement
  • Hands-on training in system identification training using CIFER®
  • Over the 4-day course students work 10 comprehensive labs on model identification and verification using flight-test data
  • See detailed outline below

The course is intended for practicing engineers and students interested in learning the principles and applications of system identification for piloted and UAV aircraft and rotorcraft. The course assumes some basic knowledge of the concepts of dynamics, frequency-responses, transfer functions, and state-space representations. The course is not highly mathematical and no experience with other tools is a prerequisite.

Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Level: Fundamentals - Intermediate
Course Length: 4-5 days
AIAA CEU's available: Yes

This course is also available on-demand. Register here.


  • Overview of system identification methods and applications
    • What is system identification and what are the advantages of frequency-domain methods?
    • What are the key payoffs of incorporating system ID in the development cycle
      • “How will it help and what will it do for your program?”
    • Frequency-response identification
    • Transfer-function and Multi-input/multi-output (state-space) aircraft dynamic models
  • Key elements of system identification (each topic will have a student lab exercise using CIFER®)
  • Testing techniques
    • Piloted/UAV flight testing for handling qualities and control system development
    • Dos and don’ts of piloted frequency-sweep testing
    • Instrumentation requirements and data consistency analysis
  • Frequency-response identification
    • FFTs and Chirp-Z transform
    • Use of Coherence function for data evaluation
    • Simulation fidelity evaluation and handling-qualities analysis
  • Effects of flight control feedback on identification
    • Assessing bias errors introduced under closed-loop test conditions
  • Multi-input identification
    • Matrix solution to frequency-response identification
    • Post-processing for system identification of aircraft with redundant/correlated control surfaces
  • Optimal windowing
    • Effect and selection of window size
    • Numerical optimization for combining windows
  • Transfer function modeling
    • Lower-order equivalent system concepts
    • Handling-qualities applications
  • State-space modeling
    • Physical and canonical models
    • Applications to a wide variety of aircraft and rotorcraft
    • UAV fixed-wing aircraft, multi-copters, and large UAV helicopter results
  • Time-domain verification
    • Assessing the predictive capability of identified models
  • Higher-order modeling of aircraft structural dynamics and rotorcraft rotor/inflow dynamics
  • Model Stitching to build an accurate full flight envelope nonlinear model from system ID point models
  • Using system identification results to improve the fidelity of physics-based simulation models
  • Key concepts and example applications: piloted and UAV aircraft and rotorcraft; multi-copter, eVTOL/UAM configurations; and small fixed-wing UAVs.
Dr. Mark B. Tischler heads “Tischler Aeronautics,” with a focus on providing Engineering Support in Rotorcraft and Aircraft Flight Dynamics and Control. He retired in January 2021 as an Army Senior Technologist (ST) with the US Army Technology Development Directorate – Moffett Field, CA. His over 40-year career includes experience in aerospace industry and government. For 25 years, he led the US Army Flight Control Technology group that conducts handling qualities, flight dynamics and control research on a wide range of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). Dr. Tischler headed the development of widely used tools for dynamics and control analysis and has been involved in numerous flight-test projects. He has published extensively in this field and is the author of Aircraft and Rotorcraft System Identification: Engineering Methods With Flight Test Examples, 2nd Edition (AIAA 2012)Practical Methods for Aircraft and Rotorcraft Flight Control Design: An Optimization-Based Approach (AIAA 2017), and Advances in Aircraft Flight Control (Ed) (AIAA and Taylor & Francis, 1996). Dr. Tischler has received many major awards for his work over the years. He has the rare distinction of twice receiving the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Senior Professional (2009, 2018), the highest recognition presented to public officials. Dr. Tischler received the Department of the Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal in 2021, the highest award that may be bestowed by the Secretary of the Army for extraordinary contributions as a Senior Research Scientist. 


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