What Is The Control System Used In Aerospace Vehicles?

A futuristic cockpit panel with vibrant digital displays and buttons.

Understanding the workings of aerospace vehicles can be confusing. They utilize a complex system known as flight control systems to maneuver and balance in air or space. This article will break down these intricate systems into relatable concepts, enabling you to comprehend their role and significance in aircraft operation.

The control systems that allow a pilot to control an aircraft can be mechanical, hydraulic, or even electronic fly-by-wire. Modern aircraft often use a combination of types for both primary and secondary systems. In the future, autonomous systems will play an increasing role.

Ready? Let’s soar into the world of aerospace vehicle control systems!

Key Takeaways

  • Control systems in aerospace vehicles give pilots the ability to maneuver and control the aircraft effectively.
  • Different types of control systems are used, including mechanical, hydraulic, fly-by-wire, autonomous, and combined systems.
  • Primary flight controls include ailerons for roll motion, elevators for pitch motion, and rudder for yaw motion.
  • Secondary flight controls include flaps for better control during takeoff and landing, slats to improve lift during low speeds,

Overview of Control Systems in Aerospace Vehicles

A cockpit panel with illuminated control buttons and dials.Control systems in aerospace vehicles serve the purpose of manipulating control surfaces to enable pilots to maneuver and control the aircraft effectively. These systems come in various types, each designed to fulfill specific functions and requirements.

Purpose and function

Control systems in aerospace vehicles give the pilot control. Such systems let the pilot change how the craft moves, turns and flies. They do so using things like a yoke or stick, rudder pedals, and throttle controls from which the pilot sends inputs to adjust key parts of the vehicle like ailerons, elevators, and rudder.

These parts help shift roll, pitch and yaw; movements tied to turning left or right (yaw), tipping up or down (pitch), or rolling on an axis (roll). The system uses principles of aerodynamics to boost or cut lift on various parts of the aircraft.

So you can see that these systems play a big role in building and taking care of commercial planes, military jets plus private ones as well as spacecraft! Not only that but they also make sure flights are safe by giving pilots what they need to handle their crafts well.

Types of control systems

There are different types of control systems used in aerospace vehicles. Let’s talk about a few.

  1. Mechanical Control Systems: These systems connect the pilot’s controls to the aircraft control surfaces through a series of cables and linkages. You work with sticks, pedals, and wheels to fly the craft.
  2. Hydraulic Control Systems: Here, fluid helps move control surfaces. When the pilot moves a control, it sends fluid into cylinders that move parts of the plane.
  3. Fly-by-Wire Systems: These are complex electronic systems that replace mechanical and hydraulic systems. A computer gets input from the pilot and makes changes to the flight controls.
  4. Autonomous Control Systems: They use computers to control an aircraft without needing a person on board. This type is very common in drones.
  5. Combined Systems: Many modern aircraft use combinations of these methods for full control with safety backups.

Primary Flight Controls

A close-up shot of an aircraft cockpit with primary flight controls.

Primary flight controls are essential components of aerospace vehicles. They include ailerons, elevators, and the rudder.


Ailerons are key to flying a plane. They sit on the wings’ end. The pilot uses them to tilt or roll the plane from side to side. When one aileron goes up, the other goes down. This action changes the amount of air that pushes against each wing’s underside.

The change makes one wing rise as the other drops—the plane rolls around its front-to-back axis. Rolling helps turn the aircraft when used with the rudder.


Elevators are an essential part of the flight control system in aerospace vehicles. They help control the pitch motion of the aircraft, which is its up-and-down movement. The elevators are located at the rear of the aircraft, on its horizontal stabilizer or tailplane.

When a pilot pushes forward on the control stick or yoke, it moves the elevators down, causing the aircraft’s nose to point downwards and descend. Conversely, when the pilot pulls back on the control stick or yoke, it moves the elevators up, causing the nose to rise and ascend.

By adjusting these movements with precision, pilots can ensure a smooth and controlled flight experience for passengers and cargo alike.


The rudder is an important part of the flight control system in aerospace vehicles. It helps in controlling the yaw motion of the aircraft. Yaw motion refers to when the nose of the aircraft rotates left or right around its vertical axis.

The rudder is usually located on the vertical tail plane of the aircraft. When you want to turn, you use your feet to operate the rudder pedals. By pushing one pedal forward and another backward, you can control how much pressure is applied to either side of the rudder, causing it to move left or right.

This movement helps direct air over different parts of the vertical tail plane, creating a force that makes the aircraft turn in that direction.

The rudder plays a crucial role in helping pilots maintain stability and control during flight. It allows them to correct any unwanted yaw motion caused by factors like crosswinds or turbulence.

By using precise movements with their feet on the rudder pedals, pilots can keep their airplanes aligned with their intended path and ensure smooth flying conditions for passengers onboard.

Secondary Flight Controls

Secondary flight controls on aerospace vehicles include flaps, slats, spoilers, and trim systems.


Flaps are important secondary flight controls found on the wings of aerospace vehicles. They are hinged surfaces that can be lowered or raised to change the shape and size of the wing, allowing for better control during different phases of flight.

Flaps help increase lift, decrease stall speed, and improve maneuverability during takeoff and landing. By increasing the camber (curve) of the wing, flaps generate more lift at lower speeds.

This is especially useful when an aircraft needs to land on shorter runways or make steep descents. Flaps work in conjunction with other primary flight controls like ailerons and elevators to ensure precise control over the aircraft’s movements in various flight conditions.


Slats are an important part of the control system in aerospace vehicles. They are movable surfaces located on the leading edge of the wings. The purpose of slats is to improve lift and enhance the aircraft’s performance during takeoff and landing.

When extended, slats create a larger wing surface area, which generates more lift at lower speeds. This allows the aircraft to fly at slower speeds while still maintaining enough lift for safe takeoffs and landings.

Slats are particularly useful in situations where shorter runways or tight landing spots require increased maneuverability and precision control.


Spoilers are an important part of the control system in aerospace vehicles. They help to control the lift and drag forces on the aircraft during flight. Spoilers are small panels that can be raised or lowered on the wings or tail of the aircraft.

When they are raised, they disrupt the airflow over the wing or tail, which reduces lift and increases drag. This can be useful during landing and takeoff, as it helps to slow down the aircraft and improve its stability.

Spoilers can also be used for maneuvering purposes during flight by creating asymmetrical lift on one side of the aircraft, causing it to roll or yaw in a desired direction. Overall, spoilers play a crucial role in giving pilots precise control over their aerospace vehicles and ensuring safe flying conditions.

Trim systems

Trim systems are an important part of the flight control system in aerospace vehicles. They help in maintaining the desired attitude or position of the aircraft during flight. Trim systems work by adjusting the control surfaces, such as the ailerons, elevators, and rudder, to balance forces and reduce pilot workload.

They ensure that the aircraft remains stable and flies smoothly without continuous input from the pilot. By using trim systems, pilots can make small adjustments to keep the aircraft on its intended course and altitude.

These systems play a crucial role in ensuring safe and efficient flight operations for aerospace vehicles.

Control System Components

Control system components include actuators, sensors, control surfaces, and control cables.


Actuators are an important component of the control system used in aerospace vehicles. These devices are responsible for converting electrical or hydraulic signals into physical motion.

They play a crucial role in moving the control surfaces, such as the ailerons, elevators, and rudder, which allow the pilot to maneuver the aircraft. Actuators can be found in various forms, including electric motors, hydraulic pistons, or even air pressure systems.

By providing precise and reliable movement of the control surfaces, actuators ensure that the pilot’s input is translated effectively into changes in flight direction. Without them, controlling an aircraft would be nearly impossible!


Sensors are an important component of the control system in aerospace vehicles. They play a crucial role in providing information to the flight control system about the aircraft’s current status and its surroundings.

These sensors can measure things like altitude, airspeed, angle of attack, and acceleration. By constantly monitoring these variables, the sensors help the pilot maintain control over the aircraft.

For example, an altimeter sensor measures the altitude of the aircraft relative to sea level. This allows pilots to know how high they are flying and adjust their flight accordingly.

Another important sensor is the airspeed indicator which measures how fast the aircraft is moving through the air. This helps pilots maintain a safe speed during takeoff and landing.

Control surfaces

Control surfaces are an essential part of an aerospace vehicle’s control system. They help the pilot to maneuver and control the aircraft during flight. There are three main types of control surfaces: ailerons, elevators, and rudders.

Ailerons are located near the wings and help in rolling the aircraft from side to side. Elevators, which are attached to the tail, help in controlling the pitch or up-down motion of the aircraft.

Rudders, also located at the tail, control yaw or left-right movement. These control surfaces work together to ensure that the pilot can safely fly and land an aircraft by accurately controlling its movements in different directions.

Control cables

Control cables are an important component of the control system in aerospace vehicles. These cables play a crucial role in transmitting the pilot’s inputs from the flight controls to the appropriate control surfaces.

They act as a link between the control stick or yoke and the various parts of the aircraft that need to move, such as the ailerons, elevators, and rudder. When you move the control stick or yoke in one direction, it pulls on certain cables which then cause specific movements in different control surfaces.

This allows for precise control over roll, pitch, and yaw motions of an aircraft. So, next time you see an aircraft taking off or landing smoothly, remember that it’s all thanks to those tiny but mighty control cables!

Fly-By-Wire Systems

Fly-By-Wire Systems are electronic control systems that replace traditional mechanical linkages in aircraft, providing enhanced precision and responsiveness. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of this technology.

Definition and function

A control system is a crucial component used in aerospace vehicles to help the pilot control and maneuver the aircraft. It consists of various parts, including control surfaces like ailerons, elevators, and rudders.

These surfaces are responsible for controlling the roll, pitch, and yaw motions of the aircraft. The flight control system works by manipulating these surfaces based on inputs from the pilot’s controls.

Its main function is to ensure that the aircraft stays stable during flight and responds correctly to the pilot’s commands. This helps maintain safe and efficient operation of aerospace vehicles.

Advantages and disadvantages

Flight control systems, particularly fly-by-wire systems, offer a host of advantages and disadvantages to aerospace vehicles. The following table outlines these pros and cons in a digestible manner for you as students.

Fly-by-wire systems provide weight savings due to less mechanical hardware.They are highly dependent on electricity and can fail if power is lost.
These systems have increased control precision, enhancing flight safety.They can be susceptible to software glitches and cyber-attacks.
Fly-by-wire systems offer better fuel efficiency due to optimized controls.They require extensive testing and certification, leading to increased costs.
These systems can be configured to prevent unsafe aircraft maneuvers, augmenting flight safety.In the absence of direct mechanical linkage, pilots may have less tactile feedback.
They allow for a smoother ride by reducing the effects of turbulence.There can be a loss of redundancy due to centralized control system.

By weighing these advantages and disadvantages, you can understand why fly-by-wire systems – despite their potential drawbacks – are extensively used in modern aerospace vehicles. They represent a remarkable step forward in flight control systems, offering greater precision, safety, and efficiency.

Future Developments in Aerospace Vehicle Control Systems

Explore the exciting advancements awaiting aerospace vehicle control systems, including autonomous control systems, artificial intelligence integration, electrically powered control systems, and enhanced safety features.

Autonomous control systems

Autonomous control systems are an exciting development in aerospace technology. These systems use advanced algorithms and sensors to make decisions and control the aircraft without human intervention.

They can analyze data, detect potential risks, and take appropriate actions to ensure safe flight. Autonomous control systems have the potential to improve efficiency, enhance safety, and reduce pilot workload.

With these systems, aircraft can navigate through challenging environments with precision and accuracy. In the future, we may see more integration of artificial intelligence into autonomous control systems, which will further enhance their capabilities.

Artificial intelligence integration

Artificial intelligence integration is a future development in aerospace vehicle control systems. It involves incorporating AI technology into the flight control system to improve its capabilities.

With AI, aerospace vehicles can analyze vast amounts of data and make complex decisions in real-time. This integration has the potential to enhance efficiency, safety, and autonomy in aircraft operations.

By using AI algorithms, aerospace vehicles can adapt to changing conditions and optimize their performance during flight. This advancement in control systems would revolutionize the aerospace industry by enabling more intelligent and autonomous aircraft.

Electrically powered control systems

Electrically powered control systems are an important component of aerospace vehicles. These systems use electrical power to operate the control surfaces, such as the ailerons, elevators, and rudder.

Instead of relying on traditional hydraulic or mechanical systems, electrically powered control systems provide more precise and efficient control over the aircraft’s movements. They also offer advantages such as lower maintenance requirements and reduced weight.

With advancements in technology, electrically powered control systems are becoming more commonly used in aerospace vehicles for their improved performance and reliability.

Enhanced safety features

Enhanced safety features are important in aerospace control systems to ensure the well-being of passengers and crew members. These features include advanced technologies that minimize the risk of accidents and improve emergency response capabilities.

For example, modern aircraft have sophisticated collision avoidance systems that use radar and sensors to detect other planes or obstacles in the flight path. Additionally, there are improved weather monitoring systems that provide accurate information about potentially hazardous conditions.

Furthermore, aerospace vehicles now have enhanced communication systems to facilitate prompt coordination with air traffic control and ground teams during emergencies. All these safety enhancements work together to make air travel safer than ever before.


In conclusion, the control system used in aerospace vehicles is essential for allowing pilots to maneuver the aircraft effectively. By adjusting the control surfaces like ailerons, elevators, and rudder, pilots can control roll, pitch, and yaw motions.

These control systems are crucial for ensuring safe and efficient operation of aerospace vehicles.


1. What is a control system in aerospace vehicles?

A control system in aerospace vehicles is a mechanism that manages and regulates the movement, stability, and performance of the vehicle during flight.

2. How does a control system work in aerospace vehicles?

A control system uses various sensors to gather data about the vehicle’s position, speed, and other important factors. Based on this information, it sends signals to actuators such as motors or hydraulic systems to adjust the vehicle’s movements accordingly.

3. Why are control systems important in aerospace vehicles?

Control systems are crucial in aerospace vehicles as they ensure safe and precise flight operations by maintaining stability, maneuverability, and responsiveness to pilot commands.

4. What types of control systems are used in aerospace vehicles?

There are different types of control systems used in aerospace vehicles including fly-by-wire (electronic controls), hydromechanical controls (hydraulic mechanisms), and mechanical controls (cables and pulleys).

5. Who designs and develops the control systems for aerospace vehicles?

Control systems for aerospace vehicles are designed and developed by teams of engineers specializing in fields such as avionics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, or computer science with expertise in aircraft dynamics and flight controls.

Related Articles

  1. Is Matlab or Labview Best for Control Systems
  2. How Do PID Controllers Work And Why Are They Vital?

Recent Posts