Primary Control of A Mach Scale Swashplateless Rotor Using Brushless DC Motor Actuated Trailing Edge Flaps
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The focus of this research was to demonstrate a four blade rotor trim in forward flight using integrated trailing edge flaps instead of using a swashplate controls. A compact brushless DC motor was evaluated as an on-blade actuator, with the possibility of achieving large trailing edge flap amplitudes. A control strategy to actuate the trailing edge flap at desired frequency and amplitude was developed and large trailing edge flap amplitudes from the motor (instead of rotational motion) were obtained. Once the actuator was tested on the bench-top, a lightweight mechanism was designed to incorporate the motor in the blade and actuate the trailing edge flaps. A six feet diameter, four bladed composite rotor with motor-flap system integrated into the NACA 0012 airfoil section was fabricated. Systematic testing was carried out for a range of load conditions, first in the vacuum chamber followed by hover tests. Large trailing edge flap deflections were observed during the hover testing, and a peak to peak trailing edge flap amplitude of 18 degree was achieved at 2000 rotor RPM with hover tip Mach number of 0.628. A closed loop controller was designed to demonstrate trailing edge flap mean position and the peak to peak amplitude control. Further, a soft pitch link was designed and fabricated, to replace the stiff pitch link and thereby reduce the torsional stiffness of the blade to 2/rev. This soft pitch link allowed for blade root pitch motion in response to the trailing edge flap inputs. Blade pitch response due to both steady as well as sinusoidal flap deflections were demonstrated. Finally, tests were performed in Glenn L. Martin wind tunnel using a model rotor rig to assess the performance of motor-flap system in forward flight. A swashplateless trim using brushless DC motor actuated trailing edge flaps was achieved for a rotor operating at 1200 RPM and an advance ratio of 0.28. Also, preliminary exploration was carried out to test the scalability of the motor driven trailing edge flap concept. In conclusion, the concept of using brushless DC motors as on-blade actuators, actuating trailing edge flaps has the potential to replace the current mechanically complex swashplate with a hydraulic-free swashplateless system and thereby reduce overall weight and hub drag.