Dynamic gust encounters due to urban terrain and/or neighboring aircraft presents a significant safety hazard for Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) aircraft operating in Urban Air Mobility (UAM) environments. DEP aircraft differ significantly from conventional single main rotor helicopters as they use multiple small rotors distributed over the airframe. If a subset of these rotors experience large variations in inflow, the changing thrust produces upsetting moments in addition to changes in forces. These disturbances have the potential to negatively affect ride quality or result in loss of control. In addition, DEP aircraft have very complex wakes due to multiple rotor systems and aero surfaces that can interact in unforeseen ways with the unsteady wind and wakes near buildings and other nearby DEP aircraft. The proposed effort is to add state-of-the-art, multiple rotorcraft wake and building airwake interaction software previously developed by the proposing team to our advanced DEP aircraft modeling and flight simulation software currently in use by government and industry to provide an additional capability to simulate wake/wind disturbances in urban environments and in proximity to other DEP aircraft with high fidelity within DEP aircraft flight simulation software. The software will also provide a method to alleviate the impact of gust encounters on DEP aircraft early in the design phase through appropriate control law design using new linear model extraction methods.
The proposed DEP aircraft UAM assessment tool will provide a critical component for analysis of vehicle control requirements, pilot-vehicle effects, and gust rejection in terminal area operations, directly supporting NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Strategic Thrust 3 by addressing research themes of Safety, Comfort, Accessibility and ModSim & Test Capability. The technology will support improved passenger comfort and safety during UAM terminal operations using DEP air taxis.
CDI collaborates with DEP aircraft UAM vehicle developers who have an immediate need for the proposed technology to analyze ride quality and maximize safety of terminal area operations during conceptual design. In addition, infrastructure engineering customers will benefit from a validated conceptual design/assessment tool to support UAM terminal site selection, layout, and airspace integration.