Flow shaping in a WindShaper for testing free-flying drones in adverse weather

Paper Excerpt | AIAA Journals | Jul 2021
Authors : Flavio Noca , Thierry Bujard, Geshanth Visvaratnam, Guillaume Catry, Nicolas Bosson

‘Drones will soon fill our aerial ecosystem in the field of imaging/cartography, parcel delivery, and passenger transport, and will need to operate around the clock in arbitrary atmospheric conditions, especially in adverse weather conditions during emergency situations. Drones are much smaller than conventional aircraft and are thus more sensitive to weather conditions. In order to test drones in various and controllable atmospheric conditions, a real weather simulator was developed.

The wind and weather facility (WindShaper) consists of an array of a large number of fans that may be arranged in various patterns on demand. It subjects drones to winds of variable intensity and direction as well as various weather conditions (such as rain, snow, hail, fog etc.) that reflect real world situations.

These tests can rate drones according to their capacity in maintaining a proper flight attitude and tackling flight perturbations in an urban, countryside, or high altitude environment. For this work, various time-independent flow morphologies are generated with a WindShaper and measurements are performed at a certain distance in order to see whether the output at the measurement station matches the input at the surface plane of the WindShaper. The flow is either in an open configuration or ducted via a straight or converging duct. Small commercial drones are tested in free-flight in each flow configuration and their behavior is captured with a motion tracking system.’


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