Vehicle Dynamics and Controls

Modern aircraft are complex and must perform a diverse range of challenging missions in an increasingly congested airspace.  In addition, novel aircraft configurations are being introduced, ranging from micro air vehicles to 600 ton air transport aircraft.  In order for us to continue to safely and efficiently operate aircraft in this environment, there is a demand for enhanced flight control systems, increased autonomy, better training systems, and improved human-machine interface.

Flight dynamics and control addresses the practical issues of modeling an aircraft’s motion and controlling its motion to achieve desired objectives. Penn State faculty members and student researchers are working on a variety of topics related to this field such as modeling and simulation, guidance and control, path planning, state estimation, autonomous systems, aircraft handling qualities, and more. 

Penn State has a particularly strong focus on rotorcraft applications (helicopters, tilt-rotors, and other rotary-wing aircraft). 

Key Faculty:

Research Focus Areas:

  • Simulation and control design for helicopter shipboard recovery
  • Simulations with coupled flight dynamics and CFD 
  • Modeling and simulation of high speed compound rotorcraft
  • Control allocation for enhanced performance, structural load alleviation, and improved handling qualities on high speed rotorcraft
  • Rotorcraft handling qualities requirements for future configurations and missions
  • Path planning and autonomous control of rotorcraft autorotation and fixed-wing power-off recovery
  • UAV path planning and localization in GPS-denied environments
  • Load alleviation control design and carefree maneuvering for rotorcraft
  • Modeling and simulation of helicopter external loads and helicopter multi-lift systems
  • Control design for helicopter external load stabilization
  • Autonomous control of multi-lift systems
  • Simulation and control of VTOL ducted fan aircraft


The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Our undergraduate program is ranked 15th and our graduate programs are ranked 15th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

Department of Aerospace Engineering

229 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2569