In many areas of mechanical engineering, mechatronics has become established in recent decades: The modern tools for information acquisition, processing and distribution enable the creation of increasingly complex networks of sensors, control components and actuators. Classic control tasks can thus be increasingly extended to a large number of simultaneously considered degrees of freedom. On the other hand, metrology, actuators as well as modeling and simulation also require higher quality levels, which include modularity, good simulation of the input and output behavior of components and entire systems as well as real-time capability. Model identification and reduction methods are also of central interest.
For aerospace engineering, this circumstance is at least as important as for the rest of mechanical engineering and concerns classic tasks of flight measurement technology in particular. This applies equally to theory and applications.
An exemplary field of research is that of integrated motion measurement, in which signals of very different kinematic sensors such as gyroscopes, strain gauges, rangefinders, etc. are fused together. The resulting high-quality motion estimation can be used, for example, in navigation and flight guidance as well as for the control and monitoring of mechanical structures. Active and semi-active structural damping concepts, highly precise motion control in multi-body systems such as robots or the coupling of inertial sensors with elastically suspended multi-antenna systems of satellite navigation are typical applications for this technology.
Modern high-performance telescopes are unique mechatronic instruments, regardless of whether ground-based, airborne or satellite-based. This fact also applies to the observation instruments such as cameras or spectrometers, which are permanently or temporarily mounted on these telescopes. A sophisticated, prominent example of such astronomical instruments is the flying observatory SOFIA. The required absence of vibrations and the required alignment accuracy of the optical system under the influence of a strong broadband motion excitation result in high demands on the required structural and position control. Another example is the optical tracking of MICADO, a high-resolution cryogenic camera for the Extremely Large Telescope, currently being built in the Chilean Atacama Desert.
Many technical developments that are fundamental to aerospace engineering and the resulting applications are much easier to understand when viewed against their historical background. This is particularly true when instruments have a long path of development, are physically or mathematically complex, or evade immediate access because of their miniaturization. Such a typical field of the history of technology and science is the gyro and inertial technology, which has meanwhile found its way into smartphones.