Miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or 'drones', will play a major role in the future of commercial aviation around the world. This includes everything from parcel delivery, agricultural surveying, and first-responder operations to name a few. Drone technology has advanced significantly, but little emphasis has been placed on a first-principles approach to maximize aerodynamic efficiency and maneuverability, both of which can help to minimize operating cost and ensure public safety.
The Araya Lab is taking steps to understand the complex aerodynamics of multirotor drones (e.g., quadcopters), a dominant player in the miniature UAV market. These devices, which may include rotor blades that can flap and vary in pitch, produce highly three-dimensional and time-dependent flows. Very little is known about how such a flow evolves according to the dynamics of independently controlled rotors in a multirotor system.
The rapid advancement of software, cameras and laser technology over the last decade enables our work to make a unique contribution to the large body of existing work in rotorcraft aerodynamics. We employ time-resolved, high-speed (up to 10 kHz) stereoscopic particle image velocimetry to study the spatio-temporal evolution of flow structures unique to multirotor systems across large wake ages. This capability, when applied to miniature UAVs, enables precision experiments at full-scale that can probe the physics of both near-field and far-field wake dynamics.