Dynamic gust encounters are a design factor for Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) aircraft operating in Urban Air Mobility (UAM) environments. Gust response is important for safety of operations and ride qualities, which affect community acceptance. Notional UAM aircraft configurations differ significantly from conventional helicopters with different gust response characteristics due to aerodynamic interactions between the rotor system, airframe, and environment. These differences may require alternate flight control strategies. The proposed effort will develop an assessment tool suite based on variable fidelity modeling for the aircraft response and operating environment including minimum complexity flight dynamics and canonical urban airwake models, in addition to high-fidelity analyses of coupled rotor-airframe and free wake dynamics. Novel flight control methods will be used to perform gust alleviation and optimize ride qualities that leverage the distributed control nature of UAM vehicle concepts. The assessment tool suite will be integrated with preliminary design and analysis tools used by NASA and the industry, providing design feedback for handling / ride qualities optimization. The use of higher fidelity models will permit more accurate assessment of flight controller margins and performance prior to flight test activities. Minimum complexity models also may be used for vertiport site assessment and flight path / trajectory optimization.
The proposed UAM safety / ride quality assessment tool will provide a critical component for analysis of vehicle control requirements and gust rejection in terminal area operations, supporting NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Strategic Thrust 4 for Safe, Quiet, and Affordable Vertical Lift Air Vehicles. The technology will allow air vehicles to be developed with handling / ride qualities factored into the design process, which will be critical to community acceptance and more widespread adoption into the UAM transportation system.
CDI collaborates with air vehicle developers building components of the UAM transportation system and provides analysis tools that support performance prediction and flight dynamics evaluations. Technology developed here will naturally transition to these end users. CDI also will transition models to UAM traffic management (UTM) applications to support path planning and airspace use optimization.