CSL Professor receives AIAA Pendray Aerospace Literature Award

12/10/2018 Allie Arp, CSL

Written by Allie Arp, CSL

Feeling limited by journal articles’ confinements and motivated by the desire to explain the L1 Adaptive Control Theory in its entirety, CSL Professor Naira Hovakimyan wrote a book, “L1 Adaptive Control Theory: Guaranteed Robustness with Fast Adaptation.” She was recently honored with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Pendray Aerospace Literature Award for her efforts.

“While writing archival journal papers, quite often we sacrifice a lot of details for the sake of saving space or fitting into formatting requirements,” said Hovakimyan, W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins Professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering; “Writing a book gives the freedom to explain all details and show the entire development from A to Z.”
Naira Hovakimyan
Naira Hovakimyan

Hovakimyan’s work with the L1 Adaptive Control Theory can be traced back to 2005 when she was working with her research group to provide robustness and performance guarantees for control of systems in the presence of uncertainties and adverse conditions. The uncertainties they were looking to address included unmodeled dynamics, disturbances, and component failures, among others. The research was validated by NASA in 2010 on a subscale commercial jet and several times from 2015-2018 by the US Air Force at the Edwards AF Base on manned aircraft, such as Learjet and F16. The results were unprecedented in the field.

“In general, all the industries that have to do with safety-critical systems are very conservative, and the bar is very high for transitioning basic research results,” Hovakimyan said of her work. “We were able to clear all possible obstacles on our way to demonstrate the most possible ambitious results in real-world experiments according to our theoretical predictions. I am very content with what we were able to achieve.”

The award-winning book, L1 Adaptive Control Theory: Guaranteed Robustness with Fast Adaptation, was published by Hovakimyan and Chengyu Cao of the University of Connecticut in 2010. Since being printed, the book has led to the creation of a class that Hovakimyan teaches, both of which have become famous across the country.

“My lectures are very interactive, and students mention that they learn a lot,” said Hovakimyan. “I help the students appreciate the role of the mathematical rigor in the context of real-world systems. I always say: ‘Use physics to think, use engineering intuition for control design, and use math for finding the limitations of the closed-loop performance of your system’.”

In addition to being used for her own classes, the book is used by many professors across the country. Its pervasiveness is one of the reasons Hovakimyan received the Pendray award. The honor is given annually to a recipient who has written “eloquently and persuasively” about the topic of aerospace research and is meant to recognize an outstanding contribution to aeronautical literature.

While she has spent more than a decade working with safety-critical industries, Hovakimyan would like to expand her research to other areas when looking to the future.

“I would like to have an impact on social sciences,” she said. “We need to be able to bring the tools and solutions from our research to help humanity more and more in daily challenges by addressing global issues such as climate change, world hunger, and many others.”

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This story was published December 10, 2018.