Helicopter Flight Dynamics Simulation with a Time-Accurate Free-Vortex Wake Model

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Ribera, Maria
Celi, Roberto
This dissertation describes the implementation and validation of a coupled rotor-fuselage simulation model with a time-accurate free-vortex wake model capable of capturing the response to maneuvers of arbitrary amplitude. The resulting model has been used to analyze different flight conditions, including both steady and transient maneuvers. The flight dynamics model is based on a system of coupled nonlinear rotor-fuselage differential equations in first-order, state-space form. The rotor model includes flexible blades, with coupled flap-lag-torsion dynamics and swept tips; the rigid body dynamics are modeled with the non-linear Euler equations. The free wake models the rotor flow field by tracking the vortices released at the blade tips. Their behavior is described by the equations of vorticity transport, which is approximated using finite differences, and solved using a time-accurate numerical scheme. The flight dynamics model can be solved as a system of non-linear algebraic trim equations to determine the steady state solution, or integrated in time in response to pilot-applied controls. This study also implements new approaches to reduce the prohibitive computational costs associated with such complex models without losing accuracy. The mathematical model was validated for trim conditions in level flight, turns, climbs and descents. The results obtained correlate well with flight test data, both in level flight as well as turning and climbing and descending flight. The swept tip model was also found to improve the trim predictions, particularly at high speed. The behavior of the rigid body and the rotor blade dynamics were also studied and related to the aerodynamic load distributions obtained with the free wake induced velocities. The model was also validated in a lateral maneuver from hover. The results show improvements in the on-axis prediction, and indicate a possible relation between the off-axis prediction and the lack of rotor-body interaction aerodynamics. The swept blade model improves both the on-axis and off-axis response. An axial descent though the vortex ring state was simulated. As the"vortex ring" goes through the rotor, the unsteady loads produce large attitude changes, unsteady flapping, fluctuating thrust and an increase in power required. A roll reversal maneuver was found useful in understanding the cross-couplings effects found in rotorcraft, specifically the effect of the aerodynamic loading on the rotor orientation and the off-axis response.