HEIGHT ESTIMATION AND CONTROL OF A ROTORCRAFT IN GROUND EFFECT USING MULTIPLE PRESSURE PROBES
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This thesis describes a dynamic height estimator and controller for rotorcraft landing and hovering in ground effect based on flowfield sensing and modeling. The rotor downwash in ground effect is represented using a ring-source potential flow model selected for real-time use. Experimental verification of the flow model and an augmented flow model for tilt are presented. A nonlinear dynamic model of a compound pendulum heave test stand that reduces to the dynamics of a rotorcraft in ground effect is presented with open-loop analysis and closed-loop control simulation. Equations of motion and stability characterization of of a heaving rotor IGE are derived for external perturbations and it is shown that a uniform sideward wind does not cause instability and uniform axial wind from the top can cause instability. Flowfield velocity measurements are assimilated into a grid-based recursive Bayesian filter to estimate height above ground in both simulation and experiment. Height tracking in ground effect and landing using the estimated height are implemented with a dynamic linear controller in both simulation and experiment. Mean estimation and motion errors are found to be no greater than 5% and 9% respectively, demonstrating that height estimation and control is possible with only flow sensing and modeling.