Flight simulation and stability control of wingsuits

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Zhang, Xiaomo
Costello, Mark
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Since French tailor Franz Reichelt made the earliest attempt in February 1912, wingsuits have been developed and widely used not only in extreme sports, but also for military purposes. In the late 1990s, the modern wingsuit was developed. It is defined as a special wearable suit that adds surface area to the human body to enable a significant increase in lift during flight through the air. A wingsuit flight normally starts by a pilot jumping from a point that provides sufficient altitude for flight and ends by deploying a parachute. During the flight, the pilot can adjust his or her arms and legs to make different body configurations, in order to modify the flight speed and flight path. Modern wingsuits are made of special fabrics. There are wings under each arm and between the legs (Figure 1). The wings are designed to be ram-air inflated so that they become more rigid and have airfoil properties, which provides better flight performance. Compared to conventional air vehicles, configurations and performance of wingsuits are affected more by human factors, such as the pilot’s body size, arm strength, stamina, and flight experience. Therefore, the shape of wingsuits can change dramatically under different flight conditions. Due to these issues, it is hard to study wingsuits and simulate wingsuit flight dynamics. For instance, in the history of the development of modern wingsuits, no full-sized wingsuit has ever been tested in wind tunnel to obtain data on wingsuit behavior under different settings and conditions. It will be an extensive and expensive process to conduct the wind tunnel set up and relevant preparation. In this thesis, a reduced scale wingsuit model was designed and fabricated to fit in the low speed wind tunnel at Georgia Tech. This model was used in wind tunnel tests to determine aerodynamic characteristics. Since the measured aerodynamic loads were converted into dimensionless coefficients, the measured data was applied on a human scale wingsuit air vehicle system, which consisted a pilot and a full size modern wingsuit. The wingsuit air vehicle was constructed and used for flight dynamics simulation and stability analysis.
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