Experimental Investigation of a MAV-Scale Cyclocopter
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The development of an efficient, maneuverable, and gust tolerant hovering concept with a multi-modal locomotion capability is key to the success of micro air vehicles (MAVs) operating in multiple mission scenarios. The current research investigated performance of two unconventional cycloidal-rotor-based (cyclocopter) configurations: (1) twin-cyclocopter and (2) all-terrain cyclocopter. The twin-cyclocopter configuration used two cycloidal rotors (cyclorotors) and a smaller horizontal edge-wise nose rotor to counteract the torque produced by the cyclorotors. The all-terrain cyclocopter relied on four cyclorotors oriented in an H-configuration. Objectives of this research include the following: (1) develop control strategies to enable level forward flight of a cyclocopter purely relying on thrust vectoring, (2) identify flight dynamics model in forward flight, (3) experimentally evaluate gust tolerance strategies, and (4) determine feasibility and performance of multi-modal locomotion of the cyclocopter configuration. The forward flight control strategy for the twin-cyclocopter used a unique combination of independent thrust vectoring and rotational speed control of the cyclorotors. Unlike conventional rotary-winged vehicles, the cyclocopter propelled in forward flight by thrust vectoring instead of pitching the entire fuselage. While the strategy enabled the vehicle to maintain a level attitude in forward flight, it was accompanied by significant yaw-roll controls coupling and gyroscopic coupling. To understand these couplings and characterize the bare airframe dynamics, a 6-DOF flight dynamics model of the cyclocopter was extracted using a time-domain system identification technique. Decoupling methods involved simultaneously mixing roll and yaw inputs in the controller. After implementing the controls mixing strategy in the closed-loop feedback system, the cyclocopter successfully achieved level forward flight up to 5 m/s. Thrust vectoring capability also proved critical for gust mitigation. Thrust vectoring input combined with flow feedback and position feedback improved gust tolerance up to 4 m/s for a twin-cyclocopter mounted on a 6-DOF test stand. Flow feedback relied on a dual-axis flowprobe attached to differential pressure sensors and position feedback was based on data recorded by the VICON motion capture system. The vehicle was also able to recover initial position for crosswind scenarios tested at various side-slip angles up to 30 degrees. Unlike existing multi-modal platforms, the all-terrain cyclocopter solely relied on its four cyclorotors as main source of propulsion, as well as wheels. Aerial and aquatic modes used aerodynamic forces generated by modulating cyclorotor rotational speeds and thrust vectors while terrestrial mode used motor torque. In aerial mode, cyclorotors operated at 1550 rpm and consumed 232 W to sustain hover. In terrestrial mode, forward translation at 2 m/s required 28 W, which was an 88% reduction in power consumption required to hover. In aquatic mode, cyclorotors operated at 348 rpm to achieve 1.3 m/s translation and consumed 19 W, a 92% reduction in power consumption. With only a modest weight addition of 200 grams for wheels and retractable landing gear, the versatile cyclocopter platform achieved sustained hover, efficient translation and rotational maneuvers on ground, and aquatic locomotion.