Virtual Flight Testing in a Wind Tunnel Using a Manoeuvre Rig

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The manoeuvre rig is a novel dynamic wind tunnel rig developed at the University of Bristol. It is capable of five degrees-of-freedom for the aircraft model: roll, pitch, yaw, heave, and sway. This rig is unique relative to other dynamic test rigs due to the presence of an aerodynamic compensator at the rear, with four control surfaces capable of creating moments onto the rig.

The concept of the manoeuvre rig was created to achieve three main objectives: 1) to develop mathematical models using parameter estimation, 2) to study non-linear or unsteady aerodynamic phenomena, and 3) to physically simulate free-flight manoeuvres. The first two objectives have been explored previously and results have been published. This thesis will focus primarily on the third objective of true physical free-flight simulation on the manoeuvre rig. This aspect is initially explored computationally via simulations of the full non-linear mathematical model of the rig, with attention to the effects of kinematic constraints on the motion responses of the aircraft model. A concept to reduce these effects on the manoeuvre rig in order to better match a free-flying aircraft is presented, which is achieved by applying an external force using the rig’s aerodynamic compensator. This is demonstrated experimentally including rig inertial, aerodynamic, and kinematic compensation via reaction force control, and results are presented. The limitations and capabilities of the rig and the compensation concept on this regard are covered. The thesis will cover the latest modifications to the manoeuvre rig with the implementation of a six-axis load cell which further extends the capabilities of the rig as an experimental testing platform. In addition, the thesis covers several new applications of the manoeuvre rig with the study of stall hysteresis and self-sustained oscillatory motion on an approximate subscale BAe Hawk model.

Progress has been made with regards to the novel concept of rig compensation for achieving true free-flying responses of an aircraft model on the manoeuvre rig. This work has also been successful in extending the overall capability of the manoeuvre rig as a wind tunnel testing platform for subscale aircraft models.
Date of Award27 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorMark H Lowenberg (Supervisor) & Simon A Neild (Supervisor)

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