Design, Development, and Analysis of a Morphing Aircraft Model for Wind Tunnel Experimentation
Morphing aircraft combine both radical and subtle wing shape changes to improve vehicle performance relative to a rigid airframe. An aircraft wind tunnel model with considerable wing-shape freedom can serve as a tool in learning to model, control, and fully exploit the potential of such vehicles. This work describes the design, development, and initial analysis of a wind tunnel model that combines large and small wing shape variations for fundamental research in modeling and control of morphing air vehicles. The vehicle is designed for five primary purposes: quasi-steady aerodynamic modeling of an aircraft with large planform changes, optimization studies in achieving efficient flight configurations, transient aerodynamic modeling of high-rate planform changes, evaluating planform maneuvering as an control effector, and gimbaled flight control simulation of a morphing aircraft. The knowledge gained from the wind tunnel evaluations will be used to develop general stabilization and optimal control strategies that can be applied to other vehicles with large scale planform changes and morphing flight models.
After a brief background on the development of the Morphing Aircraft Program, and previous research ventures, the first phase vehicle development is described. The vehicle function, subsystems, and control are all presented in addition to the results of first phase wind tunnel testing. Deficiencies in the phase one design motivated the phase two development which has led to the current vehicle model: MORPHEUS. The evolution towards the MORPHEUS configuration is presented in detail along with an elementary strength analysis. The new embedded control implementation to permit a rate controllable planform is included. A preliminary aerodynamic analysis is presented to contrast MORPHEUS against the phase one design and an industry morphing concept. In particular, it is shown how the redesigned model has enhanced performance characteristics and the additional degrees of freedom enable greater flexibility in optimizing a configuration, especially with respect to trim characteristics. An expansion of traditional analysis techniques is applied to derive a new optimal twist algorithm for the MORPHEUS model at each planform configuration. The analysis concludes with a hybrid continuous modeling method that combines first-order computational aerodynamic modeling with classic stability expressions and DATCOM enhancements. The elementary aerodynamic coefficients are computed over the range of possible planform configurations and combined with the optimal twist results for preliminary trim analysis. This work precedes phase two wind tunnel testing and transient modeling. Future work involves expansion into the five purposes detailed for the MORPHEUS model.