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An evaluation of multi-rotor unmanned aircraft as flying wind sensors

By M Marino, A Fisher, R Clothier, S Watkins, S Prudden and C Leung

Abstract

This paper examines the possibility of using a Multi-Rotor Unmanned Aircraft System (MUAS) for atmospheric flow measurements around a tall building. This novel sensing approach is proposed, whereby we attempt to determine the oncoming flow velocity magnitude and direction from measurements of the power required by each of the MUAS rotors. Extensive wind-tunnel testing was completed to determine the power required by the fore and aft rotor-pairs at varying flow velocities and directions. The results show that it is possible to map between rotor power consumption and the oncoming flow vectors, however, a unique and accurate mapping is only possible over a very small region of the measurement space. Thus, it is concluded that the practical use of this sensing method is limited. Examination of power consumption curves also revealed that the conditions under which a Vortex Ring State (VRS) develops for small MUAS. The characteristics of VRS development are similar to those of full-size helicopters, indicating that the VRS is Reynolds number independent. The reduction in power consumption due to the presence of updraft flows of various magnitudes was also quantified, indicating that significant endurance improvements of MUAS are possible and can be achieved when operating windward of large buildings

Topics: Aerospace Engineering not elsewhere classified, Multi-rotor UAS, UAV, Flow sensing, Efficiency, Energy harvesting
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd (United Kingdom)
Year: 2015
DOI identifier: 10.1260/1756-8293.7.3.285
OAI identifier: oai:researchbank.rmit.edu.au:rmit:33497
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