Highly-Maneuverable, High-Speed, Optimized Next-Generation Micro Cyclocopter
The goal of this project is to develop the next generation of micro cyclocopters, which would exploit the unsteady aerodynamic mechanisms at ultra-low Reynolds numbers to achieve performance (endurance, agility, gust tolerance, forward speed) that would surpass any of the existing micro air vehicles (MAVs).
To achieve this goal, innovative experimental techniques were developed to measure the instantaneous blade loads and flowfield at extremely low Reynolds numbers (Re < 20,000), which was complimented with an unsteady aerodynamic analysis. These studies unraveled the key unsteady mechanisms that greatly enhances the lift production on cycloidal rotor blades at these low Reynolds numbers. Visualizations of the results of these studeies are shown in the videos below:
A 30 gram micro cyclocopter was built and flight tested by students in the Advanced Vertical Flight Lab. Several innovative techniques made the design possible: fabrication of high-strength/ultra-light carbon fiber structures weighing as low as 10 milligrams, lightweight micro-electronics including a custom-built 1.7-gram autopilot for stability augmentation, as well as novel attitude control strategies. Each cyclorotor weighed 2.5 grams and utilized four 0.12-gram blades rotating at 4000 rpm to produce the required thrust for hovering and flight.
Students: Carolyn Walther, Carl Runco, Atanu Halder, Brett Himmelberg, and James McElreath
This video shows test flights of a micro-scale quad cyclocopter, demonstrating its ability to hover and maneuver:
Aerospace America published this article on the project, detailing the process that led to the vehicle’s design.