Tiltrotor Noise Reduction Through Flight Trajectory Management and Aircraft Configuration Control

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A tiltrotor can hover, takeoff and land vertically as well as cruise at high speeds and fly long distances. Because of these unique capabilities, tiltrotors are envisioned as an aircraft that could provide a solution to the issue of airport gridlock by operating on stub runways, helipads, or from smaller regional airports. However, during an approach-to-land a tiltrotor is susceptible to radiating strong impulsive noise, in particular, Blade-Vortex Interaction noise (BVI), a phenomenon highly dependent on the vehicle's performance-state.

A mathematical model was developed to predict the quasi-static performance characteristics of a tiltrotor during a converting approach in the longitudinal plane. Additionally, a neural network was designed to model the acoustic results from a flight test of the XV-15 tiltrotor as a function of the aircraft's performance parameters. The performance model was linked to the neural network to yield a combined performance/ acoustic model that is capable of predicting tiltrotor noise emitted during a decelerating approach.

The model was then used to study noise trends associated with different combinations of airspeed, nacelle tilt, and flight path angle. It showed that BVI noise is the dominant noise source during a descent and that its strength increases with steeper descent angles. Strong BVI noise was observed at very steep flight path angles, suggesting that the tiltrotor's high downwash prevents the wake from being pushed above the rotor, even at such steep descent angles.

The model was used to study the effects of various aircraft configuration and flight trajectory parameters on the rotor inflow, which adequately captured the measured BVI noise trends. Flight path management effectively constrained the rotor inflow during a converting approach and thus limited the strength of BVI noise. The maximum deceleration was also constrained by controlling the nacelle tilt-rate during conversion. By applying these constraints, low BVI noise approaches that take into account the first-order effects of deceleration on the acoustics were systematically designed and compared to a baseline approach profile. The low-noise approaches yielded substantial noise reduction benefits on a hemisphere surrounding the aircraft and on a ground plane below the aircraft's trajectory.