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4 months in Montreal for a research project

Published on

8 Sep 2022

Félix Pollet, PhD student at the DCAS of ISAE-SUPAERO, went to Concordia University in Montreal for a 4 months research project. The Foundation had granted him a scholarship at the beginning of 2022 to facilitate your departure to Canada. At the HiRAD Laboratory in Montreal, Félix was able to work on a methodology for the preliminary design of drones with a new approach. He tells us!

Tell us about your project

With the support of the ISAE-SUPAERO Foundation, I carried out a 4-month research project at Concordia University in Montreal. Professor Liscouët invited me to join his research team in the HiRAD laboratory. The mission of the High Reliability Aerospace Design Lab is to develop innovative design methods for UAVs and vertical takeoff aircraft that must demonstrate a high level of reliability. Among the many applications, we can mention the transport of medical and humanitarian material by drones, flying ambulances as well as search and rescue devices.

My work consisted in developing a methodology for the preliminary design of UAVs with a new multidisciplinary approach linking the controllability assessment and the sizing process. The implementation of this methodology in a numerical tool allows, for example, to explore and evaluate concepts of UAVs robust to the loss of an engine or a control surface. The research trip ended with the writing of two scientific articles on these issues. In addition, a solid foundation for future collaborations between ISAE-SUPAERO and Concordia University has been established.

How did this research project take shape?

The research stay at Concordia University is part of the larger framework of my PhD, conducted at ISAE-SUPAERO since January 2021 under the supervision of Jean-Marc Moschetta (ISAE-SUPAERO), Marc Budinger (INSA Toulouse) and Scott Delbecq (ISAE-SUPAERO). The subject of the thesis addresses the development of a preliminary design methodology for electric drones. It is a highly multidisciplinary subject, which requires knowledge of aerodynamics, structures, mechatronics, and applied mathematics.

The fields of study are numerous. On the one hand, because recent technological innovations (for example, electric propulsion) allow the emergence of new concepts far removed from conventional airplanes or helicopters, which should be explored. On the other hand, new applications for drones are emerging in a wide variety of sectors. My research work aims to develop a numerical tool to optimally size a drone, based on a simple specification. The tool (called FAST-UAV) has aroused the interest of Jonathan Liscouët, a researcher at Concordia University who specializes in the reliability of aeronautical systems. Following some preliminary exchanges, we conducted an initial research project in the spring of 2021, remotely. The collaboration has allowed us to pool our knowledge to explore and evaluate high reliability multi-rotor UAV concepts. This work led to the publication of a paper in the scientific journal Aerospace Science and Technology in 2022.

Above all, it laid the foundation for future research collaborations between ISAE-SUPAERO and Concordia University. We wanted to take this approach a step further by continuing our collaboration, this time in person at Concordia. This is how I was invited to do a research stay in Montreal, from March to July 2022.

What were your motivations for leaving?

Professor Liscouët’s invitation strongly motivated me for several reasons. First, it was a unique opportunity to learn about how research works in North America. Concordia University is an internationally renowned teaching and research institution. A stay in this university could therefore be very beneficial for my career as a young researcher. Then, I was going to be able to talk with Professor Liscouët, and progress academically. Our first exchanges at a distance suggested very constructive working sessions. Finally, I saw this international project as a challenge. Integrating mobility abroad into a doctoral program requires good project management and the ability to adapt to a new environment.

How did it go on site?

I landed in Montreal on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, to begin my experience at Concordia University the following Monday.

I was lucky enough to arrive at the end-of-year presentations of the engineering students. These presentations focused on research projects carried out in groups by students in conjunction with the University’s laboratories and industrial partners. This allowed me to have a general view of the subjects discussed at Concordia. Professor Liscouët supervised a project during the 2021-2022 year to develop a preliminary design for a drone ambulance in an urban environment. The concept of operation was to transport medical personnel and land safely in the streets of Montreal, from one of the city’s hospitals. I thus found the problematic at the base of our collaboration, namely: how to explore and evaluate drone concepts for applications where safety is essential? My research has addressed two fundamental aspects of this issue.

Tell us about your work

First, we developed a methodology for the preliminary design of fixed-wing and hybrid UAVs (i.e., combining a fixed wing and propellers allowing vertical takeoff and hovering). This required the development of models to describe the flight mechanics, aerodynamics, structures and geometry of these UAV configurations. A reflection on the arrangement of the models within an optimization procedure was also carried out. The methodology has been validated and implemented in the FAST-UAV numerical tool. In addition, the work resulted in a conference paper that will be presented in September 2022 at the 33rd ICAS (International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences) Congress in Stockholm. Then, our work focused on the evaluation of the controllability of these UAVs in case of loss of a propeller or a control surface. We have developed a methodology to describe the flight behavior of a UAV subjected to one or more failures. The results allow the comparison of the robustness to failures of different UAV concepts, and thus to select the most interesting concept with respect to the reliability requirements. In addition, the methodology covers the robust sizing of control surfaces and propellers to ensure sufficient levels of control. The innovative nature of this approach has led to the writing of an article that should be submitted very soon for publication in a scientific journal.

These publications are the result of a collaborative work between ISAE-SUPAERO and Concordia University. They contribute to the reputation of the Institute through their scientific content and the demonstration of a successful collaboration with an international research center. The collaboration between our two institutions does not stop at the publication of scientific content. My time at Concordia has laid a solid foundation for future joint work. A collaborative work framework (based on Git management software) has been defined around the FAST-UAV digital tool. This will facilitate the implementation of new features and improvements from our respective laboratories in the future, while respecting confidentiality requirements. Opportunities for future collaboration have already been identified, for example around hydrogen technologies. Finally, the very satisfactory results of this exchange open the way to future internship opportunities for ISAE-SUPAERO students within the HiRAD laboratory. Hosting one or more Concordia University students in ISAE research departments is also being considered, with an internship offer to be published in spring 2023. Finally, it should be noted that the HiRAD laboratory is a recent initiative, which until now has only welcomed Bachelor’s and Master’s students. I had the honor to be the first PhD student to join the laboratory of Professor Liscouët. This particularity gives more importance to the results of my research, which constitute a basis for the future work of the laboratory.

The small size of the lab was a big help to the smooth running of my experiment. Professor Liscouët made himself available for regular exchanges. I greatly appreciated the working sessions we had. These were remarkably constructive. Professor Liscouët’s sense of pedagogy allowed me to acquire new technical knowledge and to progress on the methodological aspect. I also took advantage of his industrial experience to compare my results and better define the research problems in relation to the operational context. At the same time, Jonathan Liscouët took a very open position during our exchanges. He appreciated my ability to grasp the issues and was always ready to listen to my proposals. The trust he gave me was essential for my emancipation. Thus, the framework put in place was conducive to the rapid progress of the research project.

In addition to regular individual exchanges, Professor Liscouët organized regular team meetings. These were an opportunity to exchange with other members of the laboratory and to share our results.

What were your impressions of Montreal?

Culturally, I was able to consolidate my professional English in an international and cosmopolitan environment (Concordia is an English speaking university). I was pleasantly surprised by the commitment to inclusion and diversity at Concordia, and more broadly in Montreal. The Montreal population is welcoming and caring. Meeting people is easy, and it didn’t take long before I was immersed in the local life. Throughout my stay, I had enriching experiences that allowed me to discover Quebec, its inhabitants, and its current issues. Through the museums, I learned about the history of Canada and the thorny subject of Aboriginal peoples. At the rhythm of the festivals, I discovered the cultural richness of Montreal: jazz festival, murals, circus, etc. Finally, I went to meet the nature of Canada. During my weekend getaways, I discovered the beauty of the country’s lakes, forests and mountains. Among the unforgettable experiences, I have canoed on lakes and camped many times in the forest; I have had unexpected encounters with white-tailed deer, elk, hummingbirds and many other inhabitants of these wild lands; and I have learned about (over)living in the wilderness, as our ancestors did. The cultural and personal contribution of each of these moments is invaluable, and adds to the professional richness of my trip.

THE testimony of Félix Pollet

Doctoral student at DCAS

The overall experience of my stay in Montreal confirmed my attraction to research. I see in it the possibility to grow intellectually while working for a more sustainable and just society.

Through my work on drones, I hope to have made my first contribution to research. My post-thesis project remains to be defined more precisely, but it is undeniable that this experience at Concordia has greatly contributed to my professional emancipation.

I would like to thank the Foundation and all of its donors for making this trip abroad possible. I am available to answer any questions about my experience and will gladly accompany students and research staff who would like to get involved in a collaboration with Concordia University in the future.

While making me progress on the technical level, my collaboration with Professor Liscouët gave an international dimension to my thesis project. This is a significant asset for future professional opportunities in France or abroad (post-doctorate for example).

If I continue my career in the field of UAVs, the work done in the HiRAD laboratory opens the way to future publications. Finally, this first collaboration with a researcher from outside the Institute enriched my vision of research: working methods, different environment, etc.

In conclusion, my time at Concordia University has been personally, culturally and academically rewarding. In addition to the acquisition of new knowledge and the production of scientific content, the research collaboration will have built a solid foundation for future exchanges between ISAE-SUPAERO and the HiRAD laboratory. The prospects for work are numerous, and will allow the Institute to benefit from the knowledge of the HiRAD laboratory in aeronautical systems reliability.


Pollet, S. Delbecq, M. Budinger, J.-M. Moschetta, and J. Liscouët. “A common framework for the design optimization of fixed-wing, multicopter and VTOL UAV configurations,” 33rd Congress of the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences, September 2022.

F. Pollet, J. Liscouët, M. Budinger, S. Delbecq, and J-M. Moschetta. “A methodology for the controllability assessment and fault-tolerant sizing of unmanned aerial vehicles under control surfaces and rotor failures.”, Aerospace Science and Technology, submission expected in August 2022.

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