Enabling efficient vertical takeoff/landing and forward flight of unmanned aerial vehicles: design and control of tandem wing-tip mounted rotor mechanisms
Fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that offer vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and forward flight capability suffer from sub-par performance in both flight modes. Achieving the next generation of efficient hybrid aircraft requires innovations in: (i) power management, (ii) efficient structures, and (iii) control methodologies. Existing hybrid UAVs generally utilize one of three transitioning mechanisms: an external power mechanism to tilt the rotor-propulsion pod, separate propulsion units and rotors during hover and forward flight, or tilt body craft (smaller scale). Thus, hybrid concepts require more energy compared to dedicated fixed-wing or rotorcraft UAVs. Moreover, design trade-offs to reinforce the wing structure (typically to accommodate the propulsion systems and enable hover, i.e. tilt-rotor concepts) adversely impacts the aerodynamics, controllability and efficiency of the aircraft in both hover and forward flight modes. The goal of this research is to develop more efficient VTOL/ hover and forward flight UAVs. In doing so, the transition sequence, transition mechanism, and actuator performance are heavily considered. A design and control methodology was implemented to address these issues through a series of computer simulations and prototype benchtop tests to verify the proposed solution. Finally, preliminary field testing with a first-generation prototype was conducted. The methods used in this research offer guidelines and a new dual-arm rotor UAV concept to designing more efficient hybrid UAVs in both hover and forward flight.