Experimental Investigation of Shrouded Rotor Micro Air Vehicle in Hover and in Edgewise Gusts
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Due to the hover capability of rotary wing Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs), it is of interest to improve their aerodynamic performance, and hence hover endurance (or payload capability). In this research, a shrouded rotor conguration is studied and implemented, that has the potential to oer two key operational benets: enhanced system thrust for a given input power, and improved structural rigidity and crashworthiness of an MAV platform. The main challenges involved in realising such a system for a lightweight craft are: design of a lightweight and stiff shroud, and increased sensitivity to external flow disturbances that can affect flight stability. These key aspects are addressed and studied in order to assess the capability of the shrouded rotor as a platform of choice for MAV applications. A fully functional shrouded rotor vehicle (disk loading 60 N/m<super>2<\super>) was designed and constructed with key shroud design variables derived from previous studies on micro shrouded rotors. The vehicle weighed about 280 g (244 mm rotor diameter). The shrouded rotor had a 30% increase in power loading in hover compared to an unshrouded rotor. Due to the stiff, lightweight shroud construction, a net payload benefit of 20-30 g was achieved. The different components such as the rotor, stabilizer bar, yaw control vanes and the shroud were systematically studied for system efficiency and overall aerodynamic improvements. Analysis of the data showed that the chosen shroud dimensions was close to optimum for a design payload of 250 g. Risk reduction prototypes were built to sequentially arrive at the nal conguration. In order to prevent periodic oscillations in flight, a hingeless rotor was incorporated in the shroud. The vehicle was successfully flight tested in hover with a proportional-integral-derivative feedback controller. A flybarless rotor was incorporated for efficiency and control moment improvements. Time domain system identification of the attitude dynamics of the flybar and flybarless rotor vehicle was conducted about hover. Controllability metrics were extracted based on controllability gramian treatment for the flybar and flybarless rotor. In edgewise gusts, the shrouded rotor generated up to 3 times greater pitching moment and 80% greater drag than an equivalent unshrouded rotor. In order to improve gust tolerance and control moments, rotor design optimizations were made by varying solidity, collective, operating RPM and planform. A rectangular planform rotor at a collective of 18 deg was seen to offer the highest control moments. The shrouded rotor produced 100% higher control moments due to pressure asymmetry arising from cyclic control of the rotor. It was seen that the control margin of the shrouded rotor increased as the disk loading increased, which is however deleterious in terms of hover performance. This is an important trade-off that needs to be considered. The flight performance of the vehicle in terms of edgewise gust disturbance rejection was tested in a series of bench top and free flight tests. A standard table fan and an open jet wind tunnel setup was used for bench top setup. The shrouded rotor had an edgewise gust tolerance of about 3 m/s while the unshrouded rotor could tolerate edgewise gusts greater than 5 m/s. Free flight tests on the vehicle, using VICON for position feedback control, indicated the capability of the vehicle to recover from gust impulse inputs from a pedestal fan at low gust values (up to 3 m/s).