Development and Flight Test of a Multi-Function Controller for Automated Cruise Flaps on an Aircraft Wing

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Title: Development and Flight Test of a Multi-Function Controller for Automated Cruise Flaps on an Aircraft Wing
Author: Cox, Craig Allen
Advisors: Dr. Ashok Gopalarathnam, Committee Co-Chair
Dr. Charles E. Hall, Jr., Committee Chair
Dr. Paul Ro, Committee Member
Dr. Pierre Gremaud, Committee Member
Abstract: Cruise flaps are trailing-edge flaps which minimize the profile drag of a wing by moving the low-drag-region (or bucket) of a drag polar such that it spans the current coefficient of lift. Previous research has explored the use of a pressure-based technique for automating cruise flaps. Data obtained using this technique can be presented in a number of different formats, and different presentations of the same data tend to lead to the development of different types of automating controllers. The presentation used by previous researchers led to the development of a drag-minimizing controller that required a low-pass filter to prevent instability. This prevented the controller from being used for purposes which required a fast-acting flap. The presentation of pressure data used in this research led to the development of a multi-function controller that includes both slow-acting functionality (drag reduction) and fast-acting functionality (gust alleviation). The pressure-based technique developed by previous researchers using natural-laminar-flow (NLF) airfoils must be modified somewhat for the low Reynolds number SD7037 airfoil used in this research. Drag polars for low Reynolds number airfoils do not behave as predictably as those for NLF airfoils at much higher Reynolds numbers. A series of rigid-aircraft simulations were conducted to show the effectiveness of the multi-function controller, which was able to simultaneously reduce drag and alleviate the effects of vertical gusts. A flight controller was developed using low-cost microcontrollers and pressure transducers. The controller implemented a slow-acting drag-reduction function and a fast-acting function to handle pilot-commanded elevator inputs. Gust alleviation was not implemented due to limitations of the available hardware and flight test conditions. The controller was tested on an radio-controlled sailplane with a wingspan of 100 inches. Although direct measurement of the drag of an aircraft this size is difficult and was not attempted, analysis of flight data indicated that the controller was successful in dynamically deflecting the flap to desired angles without adversely affecting flight stability and controllability.
Date: 2008-11-10
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Aerospace Engineering

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