Macro Fiber Composite Actuated Unmanned Air Vehicles: Design, Development, and Testing

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

The design and implementation of a morphing unmanned aircraft using smart materials is presented. Articulated lifting surfaces and articulated wing sections actuated by servos are difficult to instrument and fabricate in a repeatable fashion on thin, composite-wing micro-air-vehicles. Assembly is complex and time consuming. A type of piezoceramic composite actuator commonly known as Macro Fiber Composite (MFC) is used for wing morphing. The actuation capability of this actuator on fiberglass unimorph was modeled by the Rayleigh-Ritz method and quantified by experimentation. Wind tunnel tests were performed to compare conventional trailing edge control surface effectiveness to an MFC actuated wing section. The continuous surface of the MFC actuated composite airfoil produced lower drag and wider actuation bandwidth. The MFC actuators were implemented on a 0.76 m wingspan aircraft. The remotely piloted experimental vehicle was flown using two MFC patches in an elevator/aileron (elevon) configuration. Preliminary testing has proven the stability and control of the design. Flight tests were performed to quantify roll control using the actuators. Force and moment coefficients were measured in a low-speed, open section wind tunnel, and the database of aerodynamic derivatives were used to analyze control response.

composite materials, unimorph structure, morphing wing, Macro Fiber Composite, micro air vehicles