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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-05252016-182729

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Identification and augmentation of a civil light helicopter: transforming a helicopter into a Personal Aerial Vehicle
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Pollini, Lorenzo
commissario Prof. Bülthoff, Heinrich H.
commissario Prof. Colombo, Carlo
commissario Prof. Landi, Alberto
  • adaptive control
  • CyberMotion Simulator
  • handling qualities
  • helicopter augmentation
  • helicopter identification
  • Personal Aerial Vehicle
  • robust control
Graduation session start date
In 2011 the European Commission funded an out of the box study, the myCopter project, with the aim of identifying new concepts for air transport that could be used to achieve a Personal Aerial Transport (PAT) system in the second half of the 21st century.
Although designing a new vehicle was not among the project's goal, it was considered important to assess vehicle response types and handling qualities that Personal Aerial Vehicles (PAVs) should have to be part of a PAT.

This thesis proposes to consider civil light helicopters as possible PAVs candidates.
The thesis goal is to investigate whether it is possible to transform civil light helicopters into PAVs through the use of system identification methods and control techniques. The transformation here is envisaged in terms of vehicle dynamics and handling qualities.

To achieve this goal, the thesis is divided into three main steps.
The first step, focuses on the identification of a Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter model in hover. The hover condition is considered well suited for the goal of the thesis as it represents one of the most difficult to perform, particularly for inexperienced pilots.

The second step consists of augmenting the identified helicopter model to achieve response types and handling qualities defined for PAVs. An optimal H-infinity and a robust mu-synthesis techniques are implemented for this purpose.

The third step consists of assessing the magnitude of the discrepancies between the two implemented augmented systems and the PAV reference model. An experiment is conducted for this purpose, consisting of piloted closed-loop control tasks performed in the MPI CyberMotion Simulator by participants without prior flight experience.
Results, evaluated in terms of objective and subjective workload and performance, show that both augmented control systems are able to resemble PAVs handling qualities and response types in piloted closed-loop control tasks. This result demonstrates that it is possible to transform helicopter dynamics into PAVs ones. Therefore, the approach proposed in this thesis represents a valid alternative to the common practice of implementing new vehicles that can achieve specific requirements like those defined for PAVs.