Quasi-static rotor morphing concepts for rotorcraft performance improvements

Open Access
Mistry, Mihir
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 02, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Dr Farhan Gandhi, Dissertation Advisor
  • Dr Farhan Gandhi, Committee Chair
  • Edward Smith, Committee Member
  • Joseph Francis Horn, Committee Member
  • Timothy Miller, Special Member
  • rotorcraft
  • rotor
  • morphing
  • smart structure
  • blade
  • span
  • camber
  • RPM
  • rotor speed
  • variation
  • rotating wing
  • warping
  • twist
The current research is focused on two separate quasi-static rotor morphing concepts: Variable span and variable camber. Both concepts were analyzed from the perspective of the performance improvements they allow for, as well as their design requirements. The goal of this body of work is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the benefits and implementation challenges of both systems. For the case of the variable span rotor concept, the effects on aircraft performance were evaluated for a UH-60A type aircraft. The parametric analysis included the performance effects of the rotor span and rotor speed variation, both individually as well as in combination. The design space considered the effect of three different gross weights (16000 lbs, 18300 lbs and 24000 lbs), for a window of ±11% variation of the rotor speed and a range between +17% to −16% of radius variation (about the baseline) for a range of altitudes. The results of the analysis showed that variable span rotors by themselves are capable of reducing the power requirement of the helicopter by up to 20% for high altitude and gross weight conditions. However, when combined with rotor speed variation, it was possible to reduce the overall power required by the aircraft by up to 30%. Complimentary to the performance analysis, an analytical study of actuation concepts for a variable span rotor was also conducted. This study considered the design of two active actuation systems: Hydraulic pistons and threaded rods (jackscrews), and two passive systems which employed the use of an internal spring type restraining device. For all the configurations considered, it was determined that the design requirements could not be satisfied when considering the constraints defined. The performance improvements due to a variable camber system were evaluated for a BO-105 type rotor in hover. The design space considered included three different thrust levels (4800 lbs, 5500 lbs and 6400 lbs) for a range of altitudes and seven different camber distribution schemes (with up to 10 degrees of camber). Based on the analysis it was shown that variable camber was capable of reducing power up 18% for high thrust levels at high altitudes. Furthermore, it was found that a linearly distributed camber configuration, wherein the maximum camber was at the root, showed the best power reduction. For an untwisted blade (which would be advantageous in high speed flight), introducing spanwise camber variation would result in hover performance levels comparable to a twisted blade. Furthermore, the power reductions calculated were shown to be the result of a reduction of induced power due to the shift of the blade lift inboard due to the direct lift increase as a result of camber variation. The variable camber design presented in the current study exploits the warp-twist relationship of open-section beams. To that effect, a unique actuation structure was developed and implemented in a proof-of-concept variable camber prototype which was built using an existing CH-46E blade section. This prototype was shown to be capable of producing up to 18 degrees of distributed camber with a relatively low input warping of up to 0.18 inches. The results from the specifically developed finite element model of the prototype correlated very well with experimental data. The finite element results indicated the requirement of a shear-deformable core for proper camber deformation in the presence of centrifugal and aerodynamic loads.