Agile manoeuvering and control with a morphing wing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Aerospace Engineering


My specific research interests focus around themes of biologically inspired flight and how
this can be applied to small unmanned aerial vehicles. During my undergraduate studies my
research projects focused on: 'Simulation and control of perching manoeuvers for
unmanned aerial vehicle'; Using 6DOF flight mechanics models to simulate post-stall
manoeuvring in a coupled aerodynamic and ballistic perching manoeuvre, and 'Load
sensing for upset control applications', where I designed, built and tested and experimental
glider that incorporated wing root strain sensing for stall detection and post stall control I
would like to develop this work further and am interested in two different research streams:
Bird-inspired control strategies
I believe with the increasing use of small fixed wing UAV's it is time to re-evaluate our
approach to aircraft control. The fundamentals of 3-axis control have not largely changed
since the advent of human flight. Whilst alternative flight control systems such as thrust
vectoring (combat aircraft) and morphing wings (flex-wing microlights and paragliders) have
been demonstrated I believe there is scope to examine other techniques employed in
nature: wing sweep for pitch control, wing twist, adaptive camber, wing tucks etc. In addition
to this; can distributed load and flow sensing structures be incorporated into the flight control
system eliminating the need for high fidelity modelling of vehicle flight mechanics and
Bird-inspired flight manoeuvers for agile UAV's
With new markets and environments for small air vehicles to operate in, there are
opportunities to exploit natural aerobatic manoeuvres afforded by nature's unique wing
planform. Whilst some work has been done to understand and recreate the flight mechanics
of a perch I believe there is more to be studied regarding: stooping, wing tucks, aerial
hunting, launching, landing and recovery.
My proposed research topic: Agile manoeuvring and control with a morphing wing
- Quantifying how various species of bird change their wing geometry, by building
upon photogrammetric reconstruction techniques being developed by the research group
and using trained falconry birds to perform specific manoeuvres i.e. perching, climbing,
descending, turning, and stooping. This will allow me to better understand the effects of
sweeping, changing camber, twisting and modifying the aerofoil profile and to develop
control schemes that employ these inputs over the traditional 3-axis control model. - From these reconstructions I will use computational fluid dynamics models and
experimental testing to characterise the aerodynamic properties of these geometries and to
couple these performance coefficients to flight dynamics models to understand the forces
and moments birds can generate in specific manoeuvres. - Using this information it will be possible to design and build a UAV with a multidegree
of freedom variable geometry wing that can demonstrate these flight handling
qualities an examine the benefits of using bird-inspired wing geometries and flight control
schemes over those typically employed in a fixed wing unmanned air vehicle. - Testing this vehicle in both controlled environments, making use of flight hall facilities
and visual tracking systems at the Bristol Robotics Lab to capture manoeuver performance,
and in uncontrolled environments to demonstrate robust agile flight handling qualities in
uncertain wind fields will stretch the boundaries of bio-inspired flight.
I hope to pursue a career in either academic or industry lead research, with the field of
UAV's set to explode; new markets are opening on a regular basis. It is my hope that this
work will leave me well placed to take advantages of engineering opportunities and help to
drive the design of small unmanned vehicles in the future.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509619/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1794189 Studentship EP/N509619/1 19/09/2016 30/09/2021 Jon Hewitt Young