Onboard Flow Sensing For Downwash Detection and Avoidance On Small Quadrotor Helicopters

  • Yeo D
  • Sydney N
  • Paley D
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Small rotary-wing UAVs are susceptible to gusts and other environmental disturbances that affect inflow at their rotors. Inflow variations cause unexpected aerodynamic forces through changes in thrust conditions and unmodeled blade-flapping dynamics. This pa- per introduces an onboard, pressure-based flow measurement system developed for a small quadrotor helicopter. The probe-based instrumentation package provides spatially dis- tributed airspeed measurements along each of the aircraft-fixed axes. Lateral and vertical windspeed estimates enable the development of disturbance-tolerant flight control strate- gies. The focus of this paper is vertical flow disturbances such as those caused by the downwash of a second vehicle. Real-time velocity measurements are incorporated into a recursive Bayesian estimator to localize a nearby rotorcraft using its downwash. A path planner developed for proximity flight is demonstrated through indoor flight testing with multiple vehicles to safely guide an instrumented quadrotor towards a goal point while avoiding another quadrotor.

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  • Derrick Yeo

  • Nitin Sydney

  • Derek Paley

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