Design of autonomous reconfigurable systems for use in extreme operating environments
Ferguson, Scott M.
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Is it possible to create transformable, multifunctional systems that provide optimal performance when mission or operating conditions change? More importantly, is such an approach technically and economically feasible? To begin answering such questions, this dissertation explores the fundamentals of reconfigurable system design-systems that use real time transformations in their configuration to become multifunctional, meeting multiple operating requirements and functioning in varying environments. Many systems, by design, are tailored for specific operating environments or mission segments to meet the demands of conflicting objectives in multiobjective optimization. However, the development of many tailored variants can result in further tradeoffs, severe cost increases, or may be logistically impossible. Reconfigurable systems are capable of minimizing these performance tradeoffs by achieving multiple operating requirements through reversible and repeatable changes. Exploring the benefits associated with reconfigurable systems requires defining performance objectives and leveraging concepts associated with flexibility. In this dissertation, reconfigurable systems are explored conceptually, leveraging fundamental ideas associated with multidisciplinary and multiobjective optimization, system mass, product platforming, and control theory. Additional tradeoffs introduced by incorporating reconfigurability into a system are identified and investigated. Demonstration of these fundamental concepts is presented using a reconfigurable vehicle as a benchmark case study.