Concept Study of a High-Speed, Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircraft

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the merits of the DiscRotor concept that combine the features of a retractable rotor system for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) with an integral, circular wing for high-speed flight. Tests were conducted to generate basic aerodynamic characteristics of the DiscRotor in hover and in fixed-wing flight.

To assess the DiscRotor during hover, small scale tests were conducted on a 3ft diameter rotor without the presence of a fuselage. A "hover rig" was constructed capable of rotating the model rotor at speeds up to 3,500 RPM to reach tip speeds of 500fps. Thrust and torque generated by the rotating model were measured via a two-component load cell, and time averaged values were obtained for various speeds and pitch angles. It has been shown that the DiscRotor will perform well in hover. Ground Effects in hover were examined by simulating the ground with a movable, solid wall. The thrust was found to increase by 50% compared to the ground-independent case. Pressure distributions were measured on the ground and disc surfaces. Velocity measurements examined the flow field downstream of the rotor by traversing a seven hole velocity probe. A wake behind the rotor was shown to contract due to a low pressure region that develops downstream of the disc.

Wind tunnel experimentation was also performed to examine the fixed wing flight of the DiscRotor. These experiments were performed in the VA Tech 6â X6â Stability Tunnel. A model of the fuselage and a circular wing was fabricated based upon an initial sizing study completed by our partners at Boeing. Forces were directly measured via a six degree of freedom load cell, or balance, for free stream velocities up to 200fps. Reynolds numbers of 2 and 0.5 million have been investigated for multiple angles of attack. Low lift-to-drag ratios were found placing high power requirements for the DiscRotor during fixed-wing flight. By traversing a seven-hole velocity probe, velocities in a 2-D grid perpendicular to the flow were measured on the model. The strengths of shed vortices from the model were calculated. A method to improve fixed-wing performance was considered where two blades were extended from the disc. An increase of 0.17 in the CL was measured due to the interaction between the disc and blades.

This research utilized a wide range of experiments, with the aim of generating basic aerodynamic characteristics of the DiscRotor. A substantial amount of quantitative data was collected that could not be included in this document. Results aided in the initial designs of this aircraft for the purpose of evaluating the merit of the DiscRotor concept.

Velocity Measurements, Wind Tunnel, Disc-Wing, Circular Wing, DiscRotor, Hover Tests, VTOL