Flapping wing micro air vehicles hold significant promise due to the potential for improved aerodynamic efficiency, enhanced maneuverability and hover capability compared to fixed and rotary configurations. However, significant technical challenges exist to due the lightweight, highly integrated nature of the vehicle and coupling between the actuators, flexible wings and control system. Experimental and high fidelity analysis has demonstrated that aeroelastic effects can change the effective kinematics of the wing, reducing vehicle stability. However, many control studies for flapping wing vehicles do not consider these effects, and instead validate the control strategy with simple assumptions, including rigid wings, quasi-steady aerodynamics and no consideration of actuator dynamics.
A control evaluation model that includes aeroelastic effects and actuator dynamics is developed. The structural model accounts for geometrically nonlinear behavior using an implicit condensation technique and the aerodynamic loads are found using a time accurate approach that includes quasi-steady, rotational, added mass and unsteady effects. Empirically based parameters in the model are fit using data obtained from a higher fidelity solver. The aeroelastic model and its ingredients are compared to experiments and computations using models of higher fidelity, and indicate reasonable agreement.
The developed control evaluation model is implemented in a previously published, baseline controller that maintains stability using an asymmetric wingbeat, known as split-cycle, along with changing the flapping frequency and wing bias. The model-based controller determines the control inputs using a cycle-averaged, linear control design model, which assumes a rigid wing and no actuator dynamics. The introduction of unaccounted for dynamics significantly degrades the ability of the controller to track a reference trajectory, and in some cases destabilizes the vehicle. This demonstrates the importance of considering coupled aeroelastic and actuator dynamics in closed-loop control of flapping wings.
A controller is developed that decouples the normal form of the vehicle dynamics, which accounts for coupling of the forces and moments acting on the vehicle and enables enhanced tuning capabilities. This controller, using the same control design model as the baseline controller, stabilizes the system despite the uncertainty between the control design and evaluation models. The controller is able to stabilize cases with significant wing flexibility and limited actuator capabilities, despite a reduction in control effectiveness. Additionally, to achieve a minimally actuated vehicle, the wing bias mechanism is removed. Using the same control design methodology, increased performance is observed compared to the baseline controller. However, due to the dependence on the split-cycle mechanism to generate a pitching moment instead of wing bias, the controller is more susceptible to instability from wing flexibility and limited actuator capacity.
This work highlights the importance of coupled dynamics in the design and control of flapping wing micro air vehicles. Future enhancements to this work should focus on the reduced order structural and aerodynamics models. Applications include using the developed dynamics model to evaluate other kinematics and control schemes, ultimately enabling improved vehicle and control design.