Advances in Aero-Propulsive Modeling for Fixed-Wing and eVTOL Aircraft Using Experimental Data

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Virginia Tech


Small unmanned aircraft and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft have recently emerged as vehicles able to perform new missions and stimulate future air transportation methods. This dissertation presents several system identification research advancements for these modern aircraft configurations enabling accurate mathematical model development for flight dynamics simulations based on wind-tunnel and flight-test data. The first part of the dissertation focuses on advances in flight-test system identification methods using small, fixed-wing, remotely-piloted, electric, propeller-driven aircraft. A generalized approach for flight dynamics model development for small fixed-wing aircraft from flight data is described and is followed by presentation of novel flight-test system identification applications, including: aero-propulsive model development for propeller aircraft and nonlinear dynamic model identification without mass properties. The second part of the dissertation builds on established fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft system identification methods to develop modeling strategies for transitioning, distributed propulsion, eVTOL aircraft. Novel wind-tunnel experiment designs and aero-propulsive modeling approaches are developed using a subscale, tandem tilt-wing, eVTOL aircraft, leveraging design of experiments and response surface methodology techniques. Additionally, a method applying orthogonal phase-optimized multisine input excitations to aircraft control effectors in wind-tunnel testing is developed to improve test efficiency and identified model utility. Finally, the culmination of this dissertation is synthesis of the techniques described throughout the document to form a flight-test system identification approach for eVTOL aircraft that is demonstrated using a high-fidelity flight dynamics simulation. The research findings highlighted throughout the dissertation constitute substantial progress in efficient empirical aircraft modeling strategies that are applicable to many current and future aeronautical vehicles enabling accurate flight simulation development, which can subsequently be used to foster advancement in many other pertinent technology areas.



System Identification, Flight Dynamics, Response Surface Methods, VTOL, Advanced Air Mobility, UAV, Distributed Electric Propulsion, Flight Test, Wind Tunnel