MENtOR: Methods and Experiments for NOvel Rotorcraft

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of 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

Planned Impact

MENtOR will deliverer a strong long-lasting impact on Society, Economy and People & Knowledge on all fronts related to vertical lift.

Society: First and foremost, Rotorcraft save lives, on land and on sea - Every day. The proposed project is concerned with current (tilt-rotor) and future vertical-lift vehicles; vehicles that will be used in civil operations: for delivery of goods and people, for relief operations, for management of natural disasters (floods, fires, oil-spills), defensive and offensive military operations, personal transportation, aerial observation, environmental monitoring, border surveillance, monitor sea and trade-routes, patrol energy networks (oil-gas pipelines, electricity); to locate, measure and record sea pollution, record land use and coastal erosion.

Economy: Aerospace engineering and manufacturing secure skilled jobs to the UK industry. This projects aims strategically at rotorcraft, which is a branch of the aerospace industry that secures the UK position in the international area. Leonardo is a prime example of a company exporting high-tech products to the rest of the world. However, there is increased competition from several international fronts that must be faced with innovation, investment in technology and strategic initiatives. The ATI investment in the national rotor rig test facility (about £4.5 million) is a testimonial to the importance of research infrastructure in the area of rotorcraft. The proposal is aligned with the strategic rotorcraft roadmap for the UK that contains tilt-rotors as the main development.

People: The work of the academic partners in education, research and knowledge dissemination will lead to a pool of specialists that will be able to take key roles in the UK academia, industry and government departments. This project will support the development of existing research groups and will strengthen important research areas. The people of these centres are the ones who will develop the necessary, tools, methods, technologies and ideas needed for the future vertical lift machines. It is important to invest in the talent of existing research groups across the UK, and ensure that in the future a pool of experts will be available to support any development of the next generation of vertical lift aircraft. In this way, the MENtOR project will future proof UK vertical lift research and ensure the country can work on an equal footing in EU and international research efforts.
Description The study has so far shown the importance of blade aeroelasticity and stall characteristics when stall flutter is considered. Stall flutter is a complex phenomenon and work carried out in MENtOR shows that changes in blade loading (due to pitch change or other reasons) may be enough to trigger flutter on the blades. This is especially true at low speeds. This important finding is based on numerical simulation of the flow and will be verified or otherwise during the experimental campaign that is currently ongoing.
During MENtOR there were new rotorcraft simulation and design tools developed and shared within the UK Vertical Lift Network. The presentation of the tools to the industry board of the project resulted in further funding for studies related to eVTOL and especially vehicles with tiltable rotors and wings that MENtOR studied.
Exploitation Route The results were presented to DOWTY propellers and a new project started with support from the company to perform further investigations of advanced propellers and their flutter characteristics. The same happened with Rolls-Royce and their eVTOL design that was analysed for acoustics using the tools of the MENtoR project. Recently, Vertical Aerospace and GKN approached the University of Glasgow for collaborative work and both companies are using the rotor design tools of MENtOR (HMB3) for advanced studies and optimization of their designs, delivering impact on the most rapidly growing sector of aerospace engineering.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine

Description Impact accelerator grant
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation Vertical Aerospace 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2021 
End 06/2022
Description Skybus - Work with the MENtOR CFD tools
Amount £42,000 (GBP)
Organisation GKN 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2021 
End 05/2022
Description Collaboration with GE-DOWTY and further testing with the MENtOR rotor rig 
Organisation Messier-Dowty Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution A new project is now established with GE-DOWTY to conduct further research in propeller flutter using the UK-VLN rig. The rig is now ready to for tests and final adjustments are taking place. The collaboration with GE-DOWTY comes after earlier theoretical studies at Glasgow and the development of the rotor test facility of MENtOR.
Collaborator Contribution There are studentships as well as funding for RAs to deliver tests with the MENtOR rig supporting the investigation of propelelr flutter.
Impact This is a new activity and outcomes are expected in the next quarter. So far, a blade has been designed win collaboration with GE-DOWTY that will be send out for manufacturing during April 2021.
Start Year 2020
Title UKVLN Version of the HM3 Flow solver 
Description The Helicopter Multi-Block 3 CFD flow solver is to be used as part of the MENtOR project by all project partners. The release of the software via the dedicated web pages of MENtOR and the associated SharePoint city is now complete and the tool will be the basis for all future development. A first release was made in 2019. The release was updated in February 2022 and included the final functionality as well as documentation and a validation database. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Building on a common CFD platform is important for projects like MENtOR. Due to the limited resources for software development, concentrating effort on HMB3 is the only way for efficient dissemination and sharing of rotorcraft methods. As part of MENtOR the HMB3 tool will be validated using new experimental data for flutter predictions of tilt-rotors.