Abstract

Vertical takeoff and landing vehicle platforms with many small rotors are becoming increasingly pertinent for small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as well as distributed electric propulsion for larger vehicles. These rotors operate at low Reynolds number unlike large rotors for which the existing prediction methods were developed. Operating at very low Reynolds number essentially means that viscous effects are more dominant; and their spatial spread is significant with respect to the rotor dimensions. This impacts the nature of inter-rotor aerodynamic interactions which become more difficult to predict and characterize. In the present research, two nominally identical commercial UAV rotors are studied for a range of separations in hover and forward flight, both experimentally and computationally, in parallel with ongoing vehicle flight tests with 4 and 8 rotors. Bi-rotor tests in tandem in-plane configuration were performed in Georgia Tech’s 2.13m × 2.74m test section wind tunnel. Rotor simulations were done using the RotCFD Navier-Stokes solver. In hover, rotor performance is sensitive to the distance between rotors at low rotation speeds, indicating the presence of greater inter-rotor interactions at low Reynolds number. In forward flight, the performance of the downstream rotor gets negatively affected by the upstream rotor wake.

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