Wind and weather facility for testing free-flying drones
Paper Excerpt | AIAA Aviation 2019 Forum (p. 2861) | Jun 2019 Authors : Flavio Noca, Guillaume Catry, Nicolas Bosson, Luca J. Bardazzi, Sergio Márquez, Albéric Gros
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.
Today, traditional drone testing techniques are of poor quality. Drones are either tested outdoors quite remote from the observer, in not well documented, uncontrolled and unpredictable weather conditions, or tightly strapped onto a support in a conventional wind tunnel with laminar and uniform wind flows, which are inadequate representations of atmospheric conditions relevant to drones. Existing tests, thus, entail a high risk of reaching false conclusions about drone performance. In order to resolve the issues associated with traditional wind tunnels or outdoor testing protocols, a real weather simulator for testing flying vehicles in various and controllable atmospheric conditions was developed. The wind and weather facility 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.