MENtOR: Methods and Experiments for NOvel Rotorcraft

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Engineering


MENtOR is a result of the activities of the UK Vertical Lift Network (UKVLN). UKVLN is a network funded by ESPRC (EP/M018164/1) aiming to bring together the rotorcraft research community of the UK. MENtOR itself is aiming to develop and validate methods and tools that can be used for the design and analysis of the next-generation rotorcraft. The project is necessary because the conventional configuration of a vertical flying machine is changing from a helicopter with main and tail rotors to different configurations, the most complex of which is the tilt-rotor. This was recently recognised by Ormiston (R.A. Ormiston, 2016, Revitalising advanced rotorcraft research and the compound helicopter. The Aeronautical Journal, 120, pp 83-129) who performed a review on the future of vertical flying machines as part of his American Helicopter Society Nikolsky award and lecture.

In the UK, the tiltrotor configuration has been selected by the rotorcraft industry to be on the roadmap of the Technology Strategy Board for development, based on the AW 609 aircraft and the Clean-Sky 2 initiative. Recent progress with the AW609 highlights the relevance of the proposal and the challenge at hand to design safe and efficient vertical flight machines of such complexity, and the need for research to provide trained engineers with the necessary tools, data and understanding.

MENtoR is a combined effort that includes all researchers in the UK active in the rotorcraft filed. The development of high-fidelity design and simulation tools is a primary objective equal in importance to the validation of the tools using test data. To support this activity MENtOR capitalises on the investment of ATI (former UK Aerodynamics) on the manufacturing of a test rig suitable for wind tunnel experimentation and able to accommodate tilt-rotor configurations. This new facility is currently undergoing commissioning and MENtOR will be the first project to utilise it.

Finally, MENToR has as strong exploitation and dissemination arm that aims to maintain and enhance the position of the UK in the international rotorcraft scene and ensure that the UK industry is well-supported with trained staff, tools and fundamental research to embark in the design and development of this new breed of rotorcraft


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Description The current research has been able to propose improved flight control design procedures for the tiltrotor model (XV15), which was one of the main focus of the MENtOR project. The proposed control design methods improve the performance and reliability with respect to standard methods, offering full flight envelope protection. Flight control algorithms, which provide the intelligence for autopilot systems and workload alleviation for pilots, are more challenging to design for this type of aircraft due to its ability to behave both as a conventional helicopter (able to take-off and land vertically) and as a standard fixed-wing aircraft (and hence able to reach faster speeds in cruise). The control design principles can be extended to emerging aircraft configurations in the areas of Urban and Regional Air Mobility, which also require such dual behaviour with an extended number of flight actuators.
Exploitation Route The principles for flight control design to achieve improved reliability and performance, as well as proposed metrics to estimate the reliability of the flight control algorithms more accurately, can be used in the standard aerospace sector in general. We strongly believe the proposed control algorithms are especially suited for novel aircraft configurations which are being prototyped and on the path to certification to be able to operate in Urban and Regional Air Mobility applications.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Transport

Description Current findings of this research on the use of modern flight control design techniques have been disseminated to key rotorcraft industries in the UK, as well as international academic members. A few industrialists have expressed an interest in further exploring the use of these findings but this would be subject to the collaboration materialising and receiving adequate financial support. The findings have a potential impact on improving the reliability and performance of flight control systems especially for emerging configurations in the new areas of Urban and Regional Air Mobility. Ensuring high reliability by setting appropriate control design policies of the flight control system is key to achieve public acceptance. Higher performance would also lead to reduced human errors in piloted aircraft and improved flight comfort, as well as economic benefits.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Tilt Rotor Vehicle Aerodynamic Modelling 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department School of Engineering Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Controller design based on the aerodynamics model built by the research partner.
Collaborator Contribution Aerodynamic modelling for the tilt rotor vehicle; Trimming methods developed for the linearisation of such model;
Impact Control laws are designed based on the trimming of the tilt-rotor vehicle model developed by our partner. A conference paper for the Vertical Society Annual Forum 2021 has been accepted and will appear shortly.
Start Year 2020
Description Validation of Flight Control Laws by Pilot in Flight Simulator 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Providing improved control laws for the tiltrotor aircraft XV-15 to be implemented and validated at the University of Liverpool's Flight Simulator
Collaborator Contribution The research partners at the University of Liverpool are providing access to the Flight Simulator to test new control algorithms on their Flight Simulator. The XV-15 aircraft model is being implemented on the flight simulator and the control laws will be tested by a professional pilot to assess the improvements of the flight control algorithms. Due to the impact of covid on the use of the Flight Simulator, the tests have been delayed.
Impact The outcomes of the validation campaign of the flight control algorithms are expected to be reported once completed if they can be completed by the end of our grant date. These outcomes have the potential impact to provide updated and improved guidance on control design policies and improved metrics for certification purposes.
Start Year 2020
Description Webinar on Introduction to Rotorcraft Control Systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact About 50 people, between PhD and professional engineers in the rotorcraft industry, attended an introductory webinar (Eventbrite) on Advanced Control Methods for flight control system design. The event lasted about 2 hours and members were exposed to key findings of the current research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021