The Causes of Propeller Pitching Moment and the Conditions for its Significance

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Fei, Xiaofan
German, Brian J.
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Recent development of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft has renewed interest in the study of propellers. One metric in particular, the propeller pitching moment, has been observed to be important to VTOL aircraft stability and control in the past. Propellers at angles of attack could not be accurately modeled in generations past due to a lack of computational power, but even with advances in computer technology, modern designers seem to possess insufficient knowledge in this area. In this dissertation, we study the physics behind propeller pitching moment in the context of an isolated propeller and a propeller upstream of a wing. An unsteady 3D vortex lattice method is developed specifically to model propellers at angles of attack and is validated by comparing to high-fidelity CFD analyses. We then use the model to isolate velocity influences to show that the propeller pitching moment is largely caused by two effects: a skewed wake and the presence of wing circulation. Generated maps of propeller pitching moment over a range of operational parameters corresponding to VTOL transition show that the low flight speeds and high angles of attack encountered during transition lead to significant magnitudes of propeller pitching moment that would be difficult to trim using passive methods. Also, derivation of a generalizable metric of significance shows that the peak contribution of propeller pitching moment to aircraft stability is comparable to a longitudinal displacement of the center of gravity by several percent of the wing chord. Finally, we give a concluding discussion on the impact of propeller pitching moment on VTOL aircraft design.
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