Improved gust rejection for a micro coaxial helicopter in urban environments

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Zarovy, Samuel R.
Costello, Mark
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Due to their small size, relative covertness, and high maneuverability, micro rotorcraft are ideal for a plethora of civilian and military applications in an urban environment such as, surveillance, monitoring, mapping, and search and rescue. It is envisioned that these vehicles will operate indoors confined complex spaces, and outside near the ground—among buildings and other obstacles. The aerodynamic velocity fields in these areas are notoriously complex with the mean winds varying spatially and temporally with sharp changes in wind magnitude and direction over small distances. This results in velocity perturbations which are on the same order of magnitude as the maximum flight speeds of micro rotorcraft leading to stall, large attitude perturbations, and loss of control; thus preventing micro rotorcraft from carrying out even the most basic missions. This dissertation starts to fill the void in the literature on this topic by assessing how to design a micro coaxial helicopter with improved gust response in complex urban environments. Both experimental flight tests and modeling and simulation tools are developed and executed to analytically understand the challenges and potential solutions to enable rotorcraft to operate efficiently and robustly in urban environments. A set of performance metrics were developed to provide a framework to assess mission-level performance of micro rotorcraft in both flight experiments and simulation trade studies. A high fidelity dynamic model of a coaxial helicopter was developed to accurately simulate vehicle response to urban wind disturbances. The model was validated using flight experiments in a motion capture facility. Additionally, a dynamic inversion based Gust Rejection Control architecture was developed for the dynamic simulation which included a novel wind estimation algorithm that was utilized to improve controller performance and create a flight envelope protection scheme. The high fidelity dynamic model was employed to perform a variety of trade studies to: analyze vehicle response to prototypical urban wind kernels, understand the affect of wind estimation on the control architecture, assess the level of model fidelity required to adequately simulate vehicle response to urban winds, and identify key platform design parameter trends to improve wind disturbance capabilities. Overall the results show the challenges micro rotorcraft face in urban environments while highlighting some trends that can be helpful for future design and analysis efforts.
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