A Caltech Library Service

Axial Descent of Multirotor Configurations -- Experimental Studies for Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Applications


Veismann, Marcel (2022) Axial Descent of Multirotor Configurations -- Experimental Studies for Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Applications. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/w49w-qy54.


Axial descent, specifically the vortex ring state (VRS), poses great challenges for rotorcraft operation as this flight stage is typically accompanied by severe aerodynamic losses and excessive vibrational loads due to the re-ingestion of rotor downwash. Given the hazardous nature of this flight stage, its fluid dynamic properties in regards to single, large-scale rotors have been extensively investigated since the early stages of manned helicopter flight. In light of the rapidly expanding use of small-scale multirotor systems, the field of VRS research has recently received increased interest, with a shifted focus towards small-scale rotors, as the thrust generation and stability of these aerial systems have also been shown to be adversely affected by complex descent aerodynamics. While experimental studies have started examining low Reynolds number rotor aerodynamics in steep or vertical descent, the influence of small-scale rotor geometry and aerodynamic coupling between neighboring rotors have not yet been sufficiently explored.

The objective of this work is, therefore, to extend the current understanding of rotorcraft vortex ring state aerodynamics to low Reynolds number multirotor systems. A series of experimental studies employing various wind tunnel setups and flow visualization techniques is presented with the aim of identifying the underlying fluid-structure interactions, and quantifying rotor performance losses during multirotor axial descent. The work is divided into two fundamental experimental approaches, one utilizing statically mounted rotor systems and one utilizing free-flight testing.

The first part of this work (Chapters 4 and 5) presents the results of wind-tunnel tested statically-mounted rotors for precise aerodynamic identification of rotor performance under simulated descent conditions. Chapter 4 covers a parametric analysis to comprehensively assess the extent to which relevant geometric parameters of a small-scale rotor influence its descent characteristic. Chapter 5 then explores the influence of separation between rotors and identifies potential rotor-rotor interactions in the VRS. The studies in this part of the thesis also make use of PIV setups for visualizing the flow field around small-scale rotors in the axial descent regime, subject to changing geometric parameters and rotor separation.

In the second part (Chapters 6 and 7), a series of free-flight investigations is described for realistically simulated axial descent scenarios. Chapter 6 introduces the methodology for quantifying thrust generation of a multirotor in free-flight without rigid attachment to a load cell, and presents the results of exploratory axial flight studies. Chapter 7 discusses a study on axial descent of variable-pitch multirotor configurations, which was carried out to evaluate the feasibility of deploying a future Mars helicopter in mid air. Findings from this study helped to inform the entry descent and landing (EDL) strategy for JPL's future Martian rotorcraft missions.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Rotor, Multirotor, Rotor Aerodynamics, Vortex Ring State, Descent, Axial Descent, Flow Field, Particle Image Velocimetry, Experimental Fluid Mechanics, Aerodynamic Measurements, Thrust
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Awards:Donald Coles Prize in Aeronautics, 2022.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Gharib, Morteza
Thesis Committee:
  • Burdick, Joel Wakeman (chair)
  • Dabiri, John O.
  • Shepherd, Joseph E.
  • Gharib, Morteza
Defense Date:25 October 2021
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies at CaltechUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:01252022-055518852
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 6. adapted for Chapter 7.
Veismann, Marcel0000-0001-8106-6738
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14485
Deposited By: Marcel Veismann
Deposited On:26 Jan 2022 01:56
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 16:43

Thesis Files

[img] PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page