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Stability is one of the primary concerns in helicopter handling qualities. Helicopters must have a level of stability to feel comfortable and easy to fly to the pilot. This report aims to do describe a straightforward analysis of the stability of a helicopter. The method is presented here is a mathematical black box analysis, that will determine stability characteristics, but will fail to yield insight on how various helicopter parameters affect stability.

Dynamic Modeling

Stability is a dynamics problem, and so we must begin by modeling the dynamics of the helicopter. We do this using Newtonian mechanics. The equations of motion relate the helicopter motion to the forces exerted on it. Thus, dynamic modeling boils down to determination of the forces and moments. Several assumptions can be made to simplify the analysis. The major assumptions are stated here.

The helicopter is a rigid body, symmetric about its longitudinal plane. The transients of the rotor flapping motion are insignificant; when anything affecting the blade flapping changes, the blades are assumed to react immediately. This is the quasisteady assumption. The induced inflow approximately varies linearly across the disk. In particular, the induced inflow is a linear function of distance downwind of the upwind tip. For helicopters, the tip speed is fixed. For autogyros, the tip speed is set to zero the rotor torque. Blade stall is ignored, as are tip effects and the effects of the reverse flow region. Blades are teetering (i.e. no hinge offset). This is perhaps not a good assumption, but the unbelievable simplification it allowed made me willing to accept it.

The derivation of the rigid body equations of motion are beyond the scope of this report. The basis of the derivation is Newton's Second Law, in linear form ( ) and angular form ( ). Newton's law is applied to the force and moment resolved into body axes, taking Coriolis and gravity forces into consideration.

Simplifying, using the symmetry assumption, and solving for the accelerations, yield:

While the Coriolis and aerodynamic forces in Equations 1-6 are functions of the velocities and angular velocities ( , , , , , ), the gravity terms are functions of two Euler angles, and . Thus, the system is not yet closed. Equations 7 and 8 relate the Euler angle rates to the angular velocities.

In the above equations, only the aerodynamic forces and moments ( , , , , , ) are unknown. They are functions of the state variables, as well as the control variables. The next two subsections detail their calculation.

The rotor forces are functions of the following:

State variables: Rotor collective and cyclic pitch: Induced inflow: Flap angles: External downwash

Only the state variables and the rotor collective and cyclic pitch are known. The others must be calculated. Rotor Axes

The calculation of rotor forces take place in shaft axes, where the -axis is collinear with the shaft of the rotor. Although control axes use (much) simpler equations for in-plane forces, the control axes are not fixed with respect to the helicopter fuselage. This introduces

bookkeeping problems. The shaft axes are fixed, and so a fixed transformation can be used to transform vectors from body axes to shaft axes. The calculation of forces actually occurs in shaft-wind axes, which is a rotation of the shaft axes so that the -axis points directly into the wind. In shaft-wind axes, the -component of velocity is zero by definition, which simplifies the equations somewhat. Variables in shaftwind axes are denoted by a subscript . For example, to transform the angular velocity components from body axes to shaft-wind axes, one would use the relation

where is the fixed body-to-shaft rotation matrix and is the angle between the shaft and shaft-wind -axes. Velocity, angular velocity, cyclic pitch, and flapping angles must all be transformed to shaft-wind axes for rotor calculations. The force and moment determined by the calculation is transformed back to body axes afterwards by the inverse transformation. Induced Flow

Calculation of the induced inflow requires the thrust of the rotor. Unfortunately, thrust is the ultimate goal of this calculation, so it is unknown. An iterative calculation is required. In Section 3, we will see that the trim solution also requires iteration. Therefore, we calculate based on the expected thrust at the trim condition, which, when the trim iteration converges, will be the actual thrust produced by the rotor. For the main rotor, this is the helicopter's gross weight. For the tail rotor, it is the amount of thrust needed to offset the main rotor torque. Once the expected thrust, Equation 9. , is known, the induced downwash can be calculated using

(1)

(which can possibly cause difficulties in the trim iteration). The relation can be improved by ``fairing'' the function near Flapping using empirical data.

The quasi-steady assumption means that flapping transients are ignored. Thus flapping is a function of the rotor velocity and angular velocity, the induced inflow, and the collective and cyclic pitches. To facilitate calculation of the flapping, the typical dimensionless ratios are defined:

There three flapping angles are the coefficients of a first harmonic expansion of the flapping as a function of azimuth:

Note that the sign convention for and is the opposite as used in Glessow and Myers. (Padfield was inconsistent about the flapping sign convention, leading to several implementation headaches.)

The relations for flapping are simplified (and corrected) versions of those given by Padfield (page 107):

Once the flapping angles have been determined, the force and moment can be calculated. The calculation of force is a straightforward, albeit long, calculation. The equations for force are taken directly from Padfield, pages 110-111, and the moment equations come from pages 114-115. They are much too long to reproduce here.

Fuselage forces are difficult to calculate. Typically, empirical data is used. When less accuracy is needed, such as for student projects, there are rough approximations based on empirical testing in most aircraft aerodynamics textbooks. For this report, I used rough estimation formulas from McCormick. The fuselage drag coefficient (based on frontal area ) is a function of slenderness ( to get the drag. ) and for this

The other forces and moments on the fuselage are usually not great, as the fuselage is not designed to produce these forces. For this report, I chose to neglect them. This is usually not a good assumption at all, especially for pitching and yawing moments. The empennages are lifting surfaces, aerodynamically optimized to produce a force perpendicular to the incoming wind. This lift force is proportional to the angle of attack (or angle of sideslip for the vertical stabilizer). The lift coefficient of the horizontal stabilizer is given by

where

and

are the lift curve slopes of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, respectively.

The that appears in the angle of attack is the rotor downwash on the tail. The drag coefficient of either stabilizer is approximated by

where is the aspect ratio of the empennage, and is an efficiency factor that accounts for profile and induced drag effects at higher lift. The lift and drag forces are rotated into the body axes, and converted to dimensional form by multiplying by empennage. , where is the planform area of the

Moments produced by the empennages themselves are small and negligible; however, the empennages are at long moment arms from the center of gravity. For example, the pitching moment of the horizontal stabilizer is given by arm. , where is the moment

Trim

Trim is generally defined a condition in which none of the state variables change with time (that is, all of the state variable rates are zero). This does not, however, preclude accelerating conditions; the velocities must remain fixed in body axes, but will change direction in an inertial reference frame if the helicopter rotates. Trim conditions include straight and level flight, steady turns, and spins. Determining the trim condition is an iterative process, as exact closed form solutions are not possible. The four helicopter controls, the collective, the longitudinal and lateral cyclic, and the tail-rotor cyclic, are adjusted along with some of the state variables until the state variable

rates ( , , etc.) go to zero. Because there are 12 variables to adjust (eight state variables and four control variables), while there are only eight state variable rates to zero, it follows that some of the state variables are determined from the prescribed trim condition rather than adjusted at each iteration. For the calculations in this report, we prescribe a particular airspeed and horizontal, nonturning flight. The angular velocities ( , , ) are zero. At a particular airspeed, the helicopter will trim to a particular orientation, but we do not know this orientation beforehand. Therefore, during the iteration, we will adjust Euler angles and . Given the current guesses for and , the velocity components are given by [from Padfield, 277]:

and

, and

to be zeroed.

There are six unknown variables ( , , , , , and ), and six variables to zero. Solving this problem is the same as solving a system of nonlinear equations. I used Broyden's secant method to do this [see Dennis and Schnabel], which is an secant interpolation method for multivariable problems.

Stability Analysis

In stability analysis, we are interested in the helicopter's behavior near its trim condition. We want to know whether small disturbances tend to converge back to the trim state, or diverge and grow larger. We do this by linearizing the equations of motion at the trim condition. The solution to a linear set of equations is an exponential. One can tell whether a particular mode converges or diverges simply by looking at the exponents (eigenvalues): a positive real part indicates divergence, while a negative real part indicates convergence.

The traditional way to linearize the equations of motion is as follows:

1. Write the state variables as a trim value plus a perturbation value:

(The suffix

2. Linearize the aerodynamic forces and moments, by writing them as first order Taylor-series expansions in state space. For example:

The stability derivatives are constant and evaluated at the trim condition. Due to the complex nature of the force equations, the stability derivatives are calculated using a central difference:

4. Assume that the Euler angles do not change much from their trim value. Wherever appear in the equations of motion, replace with and . and

Once the equations are linearized, it is convenient to work in vector notation. Define the state vector as

Then, if is a linear coefficient matrix for the linearized equations of motion, the homogeneous equations (that is, the equations with no control inputs) can be written in vector form as (2)

For this report, I chose to determine the values of the coefficient matrix in a nontraditional way. The equations of motion can be thought of a multivalued function of the state variables, returning the state variable rates. If can be written is the function, the full (nonlinear) equations of motion

is simply

where is the Jacobian matrix of . The components of the Jacobian are calculated with finite difference approximations. (The analogous scalar concept is to expand the state variable rates as first-order Taylor series, using the equations of motion. For example:

The derivatives in the above formulation are the components of the Jacobian.)

There are several advantages to the second approach; the most important is the savings in human time. Because it is vectorized, the Jacobian matrix can be generated with a double loop. The traditional linearization method requires calculation of stability derivatives first, and then filling in the components of the matrix with various expressions. Programming a

loop requires much less programmer time. On the other hand, the traditional method is more efficient computationally.

Eigenvalue Analysis

The solution to Equation 10 is

where

is the th eigenvalue.

The stability characteristics of the solution are determined by the eigenvalues; they hold information about the modes such as damping ratio, time constants, and frequency of oscillation. Thus, the first look at stability characteristics looks at the eigenvalues. The set of eigenvalues obtained while varying one parameter over a specific range is a root locus. For the helicopter, a useful root locus plots the eigenvalues at different airspeed. Figures 1-3 present the root loci of the example helicopter given in Prouty. Eigenvectors are used to determine the nature of the motion in a particular mode. This enables one to determine what the modes in a root locus are. An eigenvector that has a large value for , but a very small value for the other variables, is a roll mode because most of the motion is in rolling.

Figure: Root locus plot for example helicopter given in Prouty, plotting eigenvalues at airspeeds from 0 to 200 ft/s. There are two mode loci spanning the real axis: the roll mode at values less than , a pitch mode between and . Both modes are heavily damped. (In fact, they are so heavily damped I doubt their correctness.)

Figure 2: Zoomed root locus plot of the example helicopter. This shows a curious mixture of modes. The bow shaped mode locus on the left is a short-period pitch oscillation mode, and occurs in forward flight but not hover. At low speeds, the mode locus intersects the real axis and becomes two oscillatory modes: the pitch mode and a vertical motion mode. On the right, there is another oscillatory mode, which is the Dutch roll mode. It only seems to exist at high speeds; at low speeds the mode divides into two non-oscillatory modes. (This is very unexpected and yet another reason to doubt my results.) Also on the real axis, intermeshed with the other modes, is the spiral mode. It is not heavily damped, but is stable.

Figure 3: The root locus plot zoomed even further. This plot shows the phugoid mode. It is an unstable mode, because its real part is positive. At hover, the mode locus is at the right side of the plot, and moves to the left at higher speeds. Even at high speed, the mode is still slightly unstable.

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