|Autorotation is a rotorcraft flight condition in which the lifting rotor is driven entirely by action of the air when the rotorcraft is in motion with an engine-out situation. During an autorotation, the main rotor is not driven by a power plant, but by air flowing through the rotor disc bottom-up while the vehicle is descending rapidly. The power required to keep the rotor spinning is obtained from the aircraft's potential and kinetic energy. An autorotation is thus used when the engine fails in a helicopter, or when a tail rotor failure requires the pilot to shut down the engine. It is comparable to gliding in a fixed-wing aircraft without an operating power plant.
The objective of this project is to design an on-board automatic system which would kick in once engine failure had been detected. Such a system could indeed improve the overall system safety of manned and unmanned helicopters. Its purpose would be to optimally manage the available energy (potential, kinematic in airspeed and rotor RPM) at the instant of engine failure, and perform a safe landing.
Four main research areas have been identified in this project: (i) modeling of the helicopter flight dynamics, (ii) model validation, (iii) avionics and sensors data fusion, and finally (iv) control and optimal 3D flight.