Evaluating Aerodynamics

A project log for Goliath - A Gas Powered Quadcopter

A BIG Gas Powered Quadcopter

Peter McCloud 03/12/2017 at 00:260 Comments

Goliath hovered for the first time in September of 2016. The hover performance was less than desirable since it required a higher throttle setting than hoped and the vehicle did not rise evenly. It tended to favor the port side or the aft. Even more puzzling, was that it tended to lift off first on the side that had the most weight. Ballast could fix the issue, but understanding why is also important. Testing has continued to evaluate the aerodynamics of the setup. Below is a video compilation of some of those tests.

Test 12 was a simple flow visualization of the rotor downwash. Tufts of yarn were added to the frame to show the flow direction along the radius of the rotor and into the frame. The tufts behaved as expected, with the tufts under the rotor mostly steady. Inside the frame, the tufts indicated the flow reversed and flowed upward due to ground effects. While the tufts wiggled, there did not appear to be anything that suggested any unsteady flow phenomena.

Tests were also conducted outside to see if the shop walls and ceiling were effecting the aerodynamics. Occasionally in the past, loose debris had been ingested into the rotors and the debris recirculated inside the wake as the flow got turned around by the walls and got re-ingested. Testing outside reduced the re-circulation.

Test 16 nearly ended up with the vehicle getting damaged. There were four hold-downs, intended to allow the vehicle to move slightly upward, yet remain captive. They weren't made long enough and the hold-downs failed on the aft end of the vehicle. Fortunately, the throttle was reduced in time and the vehicle settled back on the stand (albeit precariously).

The hold-downs were fixed and the testing continued. During Test 17, the vehicle again lifted up, favoring the port side, but at a reduced throttle setting. However, the test stand didn't allow enough movement for a full hover to be achieved. The test showed that the asymmetries were present, regardless.

In theory, the rotors themselves should have been out of ground effect as they were at least one diameter above the ground. However, for quadcopters, it may be that the ground effect is dependent on the length scale of the four rotors together and not the length scale of a single rotor. If that is true, then perhaps the port rotors are experiencing higher thrust since they are slightly closer to the ground. It's difficult to tell exactly. This may be why the Mallory Hoverbike has the offset rotors catty-corner from each other.