The wandering motion of tip vortices trailed from a hovering helicopter rotor is described. This aperiodicity is known to cause errors in the determination of vortex properties that are crucial inputs for refined aerodynamic analyses of helicopter rotors. Measurements of blade tip vortices up to 260 deg vortex age using stereo particle-image velocimetry (PIV) indicate that this aperiodicity is anisotropic. We describe an analytical model that captures this anisotropic behavior. The analysis approximates the helical wake as a series of vortex rings that are allowed to interact with each other. The vorticity in the rings is a function of the blade loading. Vortex core growth is modeled by accounting for vortex filament strain and by using an empirical model for viscous diffusion. The sensitivity of the analysis to the choice of initial vortex core radius, viscosity parameter, time step, and number of rings shed is explored. Analytical predictions of the orientation of anisotropy correlated with experimental measurements within 10%. The analysis can be used as a computationally inexpensive method to generate probability distribution functions for vortex core positions that can then be used to correct for aperiodicity in measurements.

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