Title page for ETD etd-04242012-120253

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Collins, Robert James
Author's Email Address rjc88@vt.edu
URN etd-04242012-120253
Title Design of a Helicopter Slung Vehicle for Actuated Payload Placement
Degree Master of Science
Department Mechanical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kochersberger, Kevin Bruce Committee Chair
Leonessa, Alexander Committee Member
Williams, Christopher B. Committee Member
  • Tethered Payload
  • Helicopter
  • Slung Load
  • Autonomous Systems
Date of Defense 2012-04-12
Availability unrestricted
Helicopters have been used in applications where they need to carry a slung load for years. More recently, unmanned (UAV) helicopters are being used to deliver supplies to military units on the ground in theaters of war. This thesis presents a helicopter slung vehicle used to carry the payload and furthermore, provide a means of actuation for the payload. This provides more control authority to the system and may ultimately allow a helicopter to fly higher with a longer tether.

The vehicle designed in this thesis was designed for use with 100kg class helicopters, such as the Yamaha RMAX operated by the Virginia Tech Unmanned Systems Lab. Each system on the vehicle was custom designed – including the propulsion system, wall detection / localization system, and controller. Three shrouded propellers provided thruster actuation. A scanning laser range finder and inertial measurement unit (IMU) were used to provide localization. A first attempt at a linear full state feedback controller with a complementary filter was used to control the vehicle.

All of the systems were tested individually for functionality. The shrouded propellers met their design goals and were capable of producing .7lbf of thrust each. The wall detection system was able to detect walls and windows reliably and with repeatability. Results from the controller however were less than ideal, as it was only able to control yaw in an oscillatory motion, most likely due to model deficiencies. A reaction wheel was used to control yaw of the vehicle with more success.

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