An Experimental Investigation of a Joined Wing Aircraft Configuration Using Flexible, Reduced Scale Flight Test Vehicles




Richards, Jenner

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The United States Air Force has specified a need for the next generation, High Altitude, Long Endurance aircraft capable of carrying advanced sensor arrays over very large distances and at extreme altitudes. These extensive set of requirements has required a radical shift away from the conventional wing & tube configurations with a new focus placed on extremely light weight and unconventional structural and aerodynamic configurations. One such example is the Boeing Joined wing SensorCraft Concept. The Joined wing concept has potential structural and sensor carrying benefits, but along with these potential benefits come several challenges. One of the primary concerns is the aeroelastic response of the aft wing, with potential adverse behaviours such as flutter and highly nonlinear structural behaviour of the aft wing under gust conditions. While nonlinear computation models have been developed to predict these responses, there exists a lack of experimental ground and flight test data for this unique joined wing configuration with which to benchmark the analytical predictions. The goal of this work is to develop a 5m, scaled version of the Boeing Joined Wing configuration and collect data, through a series of ground and flight based tests, which will allow designers to better understand the unique structural response of the configuration. A computational framework was developed that is capable of linearly scaling the aeroelastic response of the full scale aircraft and optimize a reduced scale aircraft to exhibit equivalent scaled behaviour. A series of reduced complexity models was developed to further investigate the flying characteristics of the configuration, test avionics and instrumentation systems and the develop flight control laws to adequately control the marginally stable aircraft. Lessons learned were then applied the 5m flight test article that was designed and constructed by the author. In the final stage of the project, the decision was made to relax the aeroelastically scaled constraint in order to allow additional softening of the structure to further investigate the nonlinear behaviour of the aircraft. Due to the added risk and complexity of flying this highly flexible aircraft the decision was made to produce the final aeroelastically scaled article at the 1.85m scale. This model was designed, developed and ground tested in the lead up to a follow on project which will see additional flight testing performed in conjunction with Boeing Inc.



Aeroelastic, Aeroelasticity, UAV, Joined Wing, SensorCraft, Flight Test, Unmanned Aircraft