Aerodynamic Stability of Multipropulsors

Unmanned aerial vehicles, multipropulsors in particular, have in recent years established their position in scientific, industrial, and recreational applications. These robotic vehicles, colloquially referred to as drones, show great potential for scientific development spanning multiple disciplines. Currently, drones are used in lab-based settings for the systematic design and development of autonomous control infrastructure (including swarming and “decision-making” technologies), as these robots provide a flexible implementation platform for complex control algorithms. However, due to a lack of dedicated facilities, the inherent aerodynamic capabilities of these drones has yet to be thoroughly investigated. 

To bridge this non-apparent research gap, the Gharib group is targeting two main research areas related to multipropulsor aerodynamics. Approximately 40% of a drone’s battery life is expended during descent and landing behavior. This is due to the fact that, while descending, the airflow around the drone introduces instabilities, which allow only a very moderate descent rate for stable flight. For this purpose, the Gharib Lab has designed a PIV (Particle Image Velocimetry) system specific for drone applications to analyze the flow around a descending quadcopter. Studies in this area are aimed to investigate the formation of these instabilities and the overall stability limits. Additionally, alterations to the quadcopter design will be explored, which may provide aerodynamic improvements.