FUNDAMENTAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CYCLOIDAL-ROTOR CONCEPT FOR MICRO AIR VEHICLE APPLICATIONS
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The cycloidal-rotor (cyclorotor) is a revolutionary flying concept which has not been systematically studied in the past. Therefore, in the current research, the viability of the cyclorotor concept for powering a hover-capable micro-air-vehicle (MAV) was examined through both experiments and analysis. Experimental study included both performance and flow field measurements on a cyclorotor of span and diameter equal to 6 inches. The analysis developed was an unsteady large deformation aeroelastic analysis to predict the blade loads and average aerodynamic performance of the cyclorotor. The flightworthiness of the cyclorotor concept was also demonstrated through two cyclocopters capable of tethered hover. Systematic performance measurements have been conducted to understand the effect of the rotational speed, blade airfoil profile, blade flexibility, blade pitching amplitude (symmetric and asymmetric blade pitching), pitching axis location, number of blades with constant chord (varying solidity), and number of blades at same rotor solidity (varying blade chord) on the aerodynamic performance of the cyclorotor. Force measurements showed the presence of a significant sideward force on the cyclorotor (along with the vertical force), analogous to that found on a spinning circular cylinder. Particle image velocimetry (PIV) measurements made in the wake of the cyclorotor provided evidence of a significant wake skewness, which was produced by the sideward force. PIV measurements also captured the blade tip vortices and a large region of rotational flow inside the rotor. The thrust produced by the cyclorotor was found to increase until a blade pitch amplitude of 45 was reached without showing any signs of blade stall. This behavior was also explained using the PIV measurements, which indicated evidence of a stall delay as well as possible increase in lift on the blades from the presence of a leading edge vortex. Higher blade pitch amplitudes also improved the power loading (thrust/power) of the cyclorotor. When compared to the flat-plate blades, the NACA 0010 blades produced the highest values of thrust at all blade pitching amplitudes. The NACA blades also produced higher power loading than the flat plate blades. However, the reverse NACA 0010 blades produced better power loadings at lower pitching amplitudes, even though at high pitch amplitudes, regular NACA blades performed better. Among the three NACA sections (NACA 0006, NACA 0010 and NACA 0015) tested on the cyclorotor, NACA 0015 had the highest power loading followed by NACA 0010 and then NACA 0006. The power loading also increased when using more blades with constant chord (increasing solidity); this observation was found over a wide range of blade pitching amplitudes. Asymmetric pitching with higher pitch angle at the top of the blade trajectory than at the bottom produced better power loading. The chordwise optimum pitching axis location was approximately 25-35% of the blade chord. For a constant solidity, the rotor with fewer number of blades produced higher thrust and the 2-bladed rotor had the best power loading. Any significant bending and torsional flexibility of the blades had a deleterious effect on performance. The optimized cyclorotor had slightly higher power loading when compared to a conventional micro-rotor when operated at the same disk loading. The optimum configuration based on all the tests was a 4-bladed rotor using 1.3 inch chord NACA 0015 blade section with an asymmetric pitching of 45 at top and 25 at bottom with the pitching axis at 25% chord. The aeroelastic analysis was performed using two approaches, one using a second-order non-linear beam FEM analysis for moderately flexible blades and second using a multibody based large-deformation analysis (especially applicable for extremely flexible blades) incorporating a geometrically exact beam model. An unsteady aerodynamic model is included in the analysis with two different inflow models, single streamtube and a double-multiple streamtube inflow model. For the cycloidal rotors using moderately flexible blades, the aeroelastic analysis was able to predict the average thrust with sufficient accuracy over a wide range of rotational speeds, pitching amplitudes and number of blades. However, for the extremely flexible blades, the thrust was underpredicted at higher rotational speeds and this may be because of the overprediction of blade deformations. The inclusion of the actual blade pitch kinematics and unsteady aerodynamics was found crucial in the accurate sideward force prediction.