Analysis, Design and Testing of a Wind Tunnel Model to Validate Fiber-Optic Shape Sensing Systems

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Virginia Tech


The ability to collect valuable data concerning the stress, strains, and shape profiles of aircraft and aircraft components during flight is important to fields such as structural health monitoring, gust alleviation, and flutter control. A research interest in the form of a NASA Phase I SBIR called for possible systems that would be able to take accurate shape sensing data on a flexible wing aircraft. In a joint venture between Luna Technologies Inc. and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University a flexible wing wind tunnel model was designed and constructed as a test article for the Luna Technologies Inc. fiber optic shape sensing system. In order to prove the capability of a fiber optic shape sensing system in a wind tunnel environment a flexible wing test article was constructed. The wing deflections and twists of the test article were modeled using a vortex lattice method called Tornado combined with simple beam theories. The beam theories were linear beam theories and the stiffness of the composite bodies was supplied by static testing of the test articles. The code was iterative in that it ran the VLM code to estimate the forces and moments on the wing and these were applied to a linear beam which gave the wing a new geometry which in turn was run through the VLM. The wind tunnel model was constructed at Virginia Tech using 3-D printing techniques for the fuselage and foam and fiberglass for the wings. On the bottom surface of the wings the Luna Technologies Inc. fiber optic shape sensing fiber was bonded along the leading and tailing edges. The swept-wing test article was experimentally tested in the Virginia Tech 6'x6' Stability Wind Tunnel at various airspeeds and the VLM based code results were in agreement, within margins of error and uncertainty, with the experimental results. The agreement of the analytical and experimental results verified the viability of using an iterative VLM code in combination with simple beam theories as a quick and relatively accurate approximation method for preliminary design and testing. The tests also showed that a fiber optic shape sensing system can be sufficiently tested in a wind tunnel environment, and if applied carefully could perhaps in the future provide useful shape and strain measurements.



flexible wing, shape sensing wing, aeroelastics