US20190270516A1 - Propulsion Systems for Rotorcraft - Google Patents

Propulsion Systems for Rotorcraft Download PDF

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Publication number
US20190270516A1
US20190270516A1 US15/909,246 US201815909246A US2019270516A1 US 20190270516 A1 US20190270516 A1 US 20190270516A1 US 201815909246 A US201815909246 A US 201815909246A US 2019270516 A1 US2019270516 A1 US 2019270516A1
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Prior art keywords
fan
fan blades
rotorcraft
propulsion
assemblies
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US15/909,246
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Eric A. Sinusas
Erik John Oltheten
Carlos Alexander Fenny
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Textron Innovations Inc
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Bell Helicopter Textron Inc
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Priority to US15/909,246 priority Critical patent/US20190270516A1/en
Assigned to BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON INC. reassignment BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: OLTHETEN, ERIK JOHN, FENNY, CARLOS ALEXANDER, SINUSAS, ERIC A.
Publication of US20190270516A1 publication Critical patent/US20190270516A1/en
Assigned to TEXTRON INNOVATIONS INC. reassignment TEXTRON INNOVATIONS INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON INC.
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C27/00Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C27/00Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto
    • B64C27/04Helicopters
    • B64C27/08Helicopters with two or more rotors
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C27/00Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto
    • B64C27/04Helicopters
    • B64C27/12Rotor drives
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C27/00Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto
    • B64C27/20Rotorcraft characterised by having shrouded rotors, e.g. flying platforms
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C27/00Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto
    • B64C27/82Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto characterised by the provision of an auxiliary rotor or fluid-jet device for counter-balancing lifting rotor torque or changing direction of rotorcraft
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C27/00Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto
    • B64C27/82Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto characterised by the provision of an auxiliary rotor or fluid-jet device for counter-balancing lifting rotor torque or changing direction of rotorcraft
    • B64C2027/8263Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto characterised by the provision of an auxiliary rotor or fluid-jet device for counter-balancing lifting rotor torque or changing direction of rotorcraft comprising in addition rudders, tails, fins, or the like
    • B64C2027/8281Rotorcraft; Rotors peculiar thereto characterised by the provision of an auxiliary rotor or fluid-jet device for counter-balancing lifting rotor torque or changing direction of rotorcraft comprising in addition rudders, tails, fins, or the like comprising horizontal tail planes

Abstract

A propulsion system for a rotorcraft includes a first fan assembly including a plurality of first fan blades, a second fan assembly including a plurality of second fan blades and a drive system adapted to provide torque to the first and second fan blades. The first fan blades have a larger rotational inertia than the second fan blades. The second fan blades are adapted to experience a larger angular acceleration than the first fan blades in response to torque from the drive system, thereby providing responsive thrust control for the rotorcraft.

Description

    TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE
  • The present disclosure relates, in general, to propulsion systems operable for use on rotorcraft and, in particular, to propulsion systems including two or more fans having different rotational inertias to meet the thrust, responsiveness, handling and other requirements of the rotorcraft.
  • BACKGROUND
  • The main fan, or rotor, of a helicopter produces the vertical lift necessary for flight. One consideration regarding the performance of a main fan is the main fan's capability to output sufficient propulsion thrust to maintain flight throughout all operational conditions. For example, the main fan may be required to output a higher thrust during takeoff or when performing certain maneuvers. In such circumstances, the main fan may be required to output thrust at or near its maximum capabilities. Another consideration regarding the performance of the main fan is its responsiveness when changing or correcting the helicopter's propulsion thrust. Ideally, a main fan should be able to change speed rapidly to quickly and precisely control the helicopter's thrust, thereby meeting the helicopter's handling requirements. Current fans, including both fixed and variable rotational speed systems, face difficulties in meeting both the thrust and responsiveness requirements mentioned above. For example, while a large main fan may be able to easily meet the maximum propulsion thrust requirements for flight, the correspondingly large rotational inertia of the main fan may hinder its responsiveness when quick thrust adjustments are necessary. Conversely, a smaller main fan having a lower rotational inertia can more easily meet responsiveness requirements, but may be unable to output the propulsion thrust required by the helicopter in all operational conditions. Accordingly, the need has arisen for an improved propulsion system that is capable of meeting the thrust, responsiveness, handling, cost and other performance requirements of rotorcraft.
  • SUMMARY
  • In a first aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a propulsion system for a rotorcraft including a first fan assembly including a plurality of first fan blades, a second fan assembly including a plurality of second fan blades and a drive system adapted to provide torque to the first and second fan blades. The first fan blades have a larger rotational inertia than the second fan blades. The second fan blades are adapted to experience a larger angular acceleration than the first fan blades in response to torque from the drive system, thereby providing responsive thrust control for the rotorcraft.
  • In some embodiments, the first and second fan blades may include fixed pitch fan blades. In certain embodiments, the first fan blades may be longer than the second fan blades. In some embodiments, the first fan blades may be formed from a different material than the second fan blades. In certain embodiments, the plurality of first fan blades may include a larger number of fan blades than the plurality of second fan blades. In some embodiments, the first fan blades may be wider than the second fan blades. In certain embodiments, the first fan blades may include a circumferential tip ring. In some embodiments, the first and/or second fan assemblies may be open or shrouded. In certain embodiments, the first fan blades may be adapted to provide a larger maximum thrust than the second fan blades. In some embodiments, the first and second fan assemblies may provide vertical lift thrust for the rotorcraft. In certain embodiments, the first fan blades may be adapted to autorotate in response to descent of the rotorcraft while zero torque is provided by the drive system. In some embodiments, the drive system may include first and second motors. In such embodiments, the first fan assembly may include the first motor and the second fan assembly may include the second motor. In certain embodiments, the drive system may include an engine and a motor. In such embodiments, the engine may provide rotational energy to the first fan assembly and the motor may provide rotational energy to the second fan assembly. In some embodiments, the drive system may include an electric motor, a hydraulic motor or a variable speed motor.
  • In a second aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a rotorcraft including a fuselage and a propulsion system coupled to the fuselage. The propulsion system includes a first fan assembly including a plurality of first fan blades, a second fan assembly including a plurality of second fan blades and a drive system adapted to provide torque to the first and second fan blades. The first fan blades have a larger rotational inertia than the second fan blades. The second fan blades are adapted to experience a larger angular acceleration than the first fan blades in response to torque from the drive system, thereby providing responsive thrust control for the rotorcraft.
  • In some embodiments, the second fan assembly may include a plurality of second fan assemblies, such as four or more fan assemblies. In certain embodiments, the first fan assembly may include a central fan assembly including a mast, and the second fan assemblies may be radially symmetric about the mast of the central fan assembly. In some embodiments, the central fan assembly may form a rotor disk and the second fan assemblies may be disposed outboard of or underneath the rotor disk of the central fan assembly. In certain embodiments, the first fan blades of the central fan assembly may include variable pitch fan blades, and the second fan blades of the second fan assemblies may include fixed pitch fan blades. In some embodiments, the drive system may include an engine and a motor. In such embodiments, the engine may provide rotational energy to the central fan assembly, and the motor may provide rotational energy to the second fan assemblies. Also in such embodiments, the second fan assemblies may each include a respective motor. In certain embodiments, the rotorcraft may include first and second wings supported by the fuselage, the first and second wings each having an outboard end. In such embodiments, the first fan assembly may include a plurality of first fan assemblies each coupled to the outboard end of a respective one of the first or second wings, and the plurality of first fan assemblies may each be tiltable relative to the fuselage. In some embodiments, the plurality of first fan assemblies may include a plurality of first shrouded fan assemblies. In certain embodiments, the rotorcraft may include a closed wing disposed about the fuselage. In such embodiments, the first fan assembly may be rotatably coupled to the fuselage, and the second fan assembly may include a plurality of second fan assemblies each rotatably coupled to the closed wing. In some embodiments, the rotorcraft may include a flight control computer including a thrust controller in communication with the first and second fan assemblies. The thrust controller may be operable to control the thrust of the rotorcraft using the first and second fan assemblies. In certain embodiments, the thrust controller may include a thrust determination module operable to determine a thrust adjustment for the rotorcraft and a fan control module operable to modify the thrust of the rotorcraft using the first and second fan assemblies.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • For a more complete understanding of the features and advantages of the present disclosure, reference is now made to the detailed description along with the accompanying figures in which corresponding numerals in the different figures refer to corresponding parts and in which:
  • FIGS. 1A-1D are schematic illustrations of a rotorcraft including a propulsion system in accordance with embodiments of the present disclosure;
  • FIGS. 2A-2B are top views of rotorcraft including propulsion systems in accordance with embodiments of the present disclosure; and
  • FIGS. 3A-3F are various views of rotorcraft including propulsion systems in accordance with embodiments of the present disclosure.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • While the making and using of various embodiments of the present disclosure are discussed in detail below, it should be appreciated that the present disclosure provides many applicable inventive concepts, which can be embodied in a wide variety of specific contexts. The specific embodiments discussed herein are merely illustrative and do not delimit the scope of the present disclosure. In the interest of clarity, all features of an actual implementation may not be described in this specification. It will of course be appreciated that in the development of any such actual embodiment, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made to achieve the developer's specific goals, such as compliance with system-related and business-related constraints, which will vary from one implementation to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking for those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of this disclosure.
  • In the specification, reference may be made to the spatial relationships between various components and to the spatial orientation of various aspects of components as the devices are depicted in the attached drawings. However, as will be recognized by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present disclosure, the devices, members, apparatuses, and the like described herein may be positioned in any desired orientation. Thus, the use of terms such as “above,” “below,” “upper,” “lower” or other like terms to describe a spatial relationship between various components or to describe the spatial orientation of aspects of such components should be understood to describe a relative relationship between the components or a spatial orientation of aspects of such components, respectively, as the devices described herein may be oriented in any desired direction. As used herein, the term “coupled” may include direct or indirect coupling by any means, including by mere contact or by moving and/or non-moving mechanical connections.
  • Referring to FIGS. 1A-1D in the drawings, a rotorcraft is schematically illustrated and generally designated 10. Rotorcraft 10 includes a fuselage 12, from which tailboom 14 extends. A tail rotor 16 rotatably coupled to the aft portion of tailboom 14 controls the yaw of rotorcraft 10. A landing gear system 18 provides ground support for rotorcraft 10. Helicopters have traditionally relied upon a single main fan, or rotor, located atop fuselage 12 to provide propulsion. As used herein, including in the claims, a fan may include a fixed pitch, variable rotational speed rotor system and/or a variable pitch, fixed rotational speed rotor system. A single fan, however, compromises the maximum thrust and responsiveness requirements of the helicopter. In particular, a large fan may be capable of providing sufficient propulsion thrust in all operational circumstances, but may be unable to manage the propulsion thrust or orientation of rotorcraft 10 in a sufficiently responsive manner by virtue of the fan's high rotational inertia, thereby adversely affecting the handling and maneuverability of rotorcraft 10. Conversely, a small fan with a low rotational inertia may be sufficiently responsive, but unable to meet the thrust demands of the helicopter in some operational circumstances, such as during takeoff
  • To address these and other deficiencies of current helicopters, rotorcraft 10 includes a propulsion system 20 coupled to fuselage 12. Propulsion system 20 includes a central fan assembly 22 and four fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d disposed outboard of, and in substantially the same plane as, rotor disk 26 of central fan assembly 22. Central fan assembly 22 and fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d may provide vertical lift or other directional thrusts for rotorcraft 10. Central fan assembly 22 includes a motor 28 that provides torque to fan blades 30. Fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d each include a motor 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d that provides torque to fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d, respectively. Fan blades 30, 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d may be fixed pitch fan blades and motors 28, 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d may be variable speed motors capable of producing a wide range of revolutions per minute (RPM). Fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d are radially symmetric about mast 36 of central fan assembly 22, although non-symmetric configurations are also within the scope of the illustrative embodiments.
  • Fan blades 30 of central fan assembly 22 have a larger rotational inertia, or moment of inertia or angular mass, than fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d of fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d. In the illustrated embodiment, fan blades 30 have a larger rotational inertia by virtue of being longer than fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d. Fan blades 30 thus form a larger rotor disk 26, in terms of area and diameter, than each of rotor disks 38 a, 38 b, 38 c, 38 d of fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d. Because fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d are shorter than fan blades 30, fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d are adapted to experience a larger angular acceleration in response to torque from motors 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d than that experienced by fan blades 30 in response to torque from motor 28. On the other hand, fan blades 30 are capable of producing a larger maximum thrust than the maximum thrust produced by each set of fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d. In this manner, propulsion system 20 provides responsive control, handling and maneuverability for rotorcraft 10 using fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d while remaining capable of providing the propulsion thrust required in all operational circumstances using central fan assembly 22. Central fan assembly 22 is capable of moving a higher air volume and/or may be more efficient in outputting thrust by virtue of having a higher inertia. However, fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d may respond more quickly to control inputs 40 from the pilot or from elsewhere, and be able to change speed rapidly for finer control of rotorcraft 10. The smaller diameters of fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d also reduce the tip speed, and therefore noise, of rotating fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d. Thus, fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d may be utilized when a reduced noise environment is preferable, such as during air reconnaissance or clandestine operations. Propulsion system 20 also provides a redundancy advantage by, for example, allowing fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d to be utilized for propulsion thrust in the event that central fan assembly 22 fails. Fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d allow for a more nimble rotorcraft 10, while higher inertia central fan assembly 22 helps to efficiently provide a high thrust for maximum payload carrying capacity. By utilizing fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d for quicker and/or finer thrust or propulsion adjustments and central fan assembly 22 to achieve a higher maximum thrust, propulsion system 20 is able to utilize two or more fans, such as five fans in the illustrated embodiment, to achieve optimal responsiveness, maximum thrust and cost in managing the thrust of rotorcraft 10.
  • Motors 28, 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d are part of a drive system of rotorcraft 10 that provides rotational energy to propulsion system 20. While motors 28, 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d are variable speed motors capable of having a large range of RPM settings, in other embodiments motors 28, 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d may be fixed speed or other types of motors. For example, any one or more of motors 28, 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d may be a stacked motor assembly in which two or more motors are stacked end-to-end and drive a single driveshaft to provide torque for a respective fan assembly. Any one or more of motors 28, 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d may be an electric motor, hydraulic motor or mechanically-driven motor. In other embodiments, the drive system of rotorcraft 10 may include an engine (not shown) that provides rotational energy to central fan assembly 22, and motors 32 a, 32 b, 32 c, 32 d may be electrical or hydraulic motors that provide rotational energy to fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d. In such embodiments, the central fan assembly 22 may rotate at a substantially fixed speed and fan blades 30 may be variable pitch fan blades while fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d may rotate at a variable speed and fan blades 34 a, 34 b, 34 c, 34 d may be fixed pitch fan blades. Propulsion system 20 may utilize any number of motors or engines to drive the fan assemblies included therein. For example, propulsion system 20 may include a single motor or engine that drives all fan assemblies 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d.
  • Fan assemblies 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d are each open fan assemblies. In other embodiments, any one or more of fan assemblies 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d may be shrouded, or ducted, fan assemblies. The rotational inertia of fan blades 30 of central fan assembly 22 may be large enough to allow fan blades 30 to autorotate in response to a high rate, underpowered or uncontrolled descent of rotorcraft 10 while zero or little torque is provided by motor 28. Rotorcraft 10 may thus retain the autorotation capabilities of traditional helicopters. In other embodiments, fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d may be high inertia fan assemblies and central fan assembly 22 may be a lower inertia fan assembly. In other embodiments, fan assembly 22 may not be centrally located relative to fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d, but instead form a different configuration, symmetrical or non-symmetrical, with fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d. Also, while fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d are each supported by a respective crane 42 a, 42 b, 42 c, 42 d coupled to the top of fuselage 12, fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d may be coupled to fuselage 12 or central fan assembly 22 in any manner. In some embodiments, cranes 42 a, 42 b, 42 c, 42 d may be moveably, rotatably or telescopically coupled to fuselage 12 to allow for the movement of fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d relative to fuselage 12.
  • Rotorcraft 10 includes a flight control computer 44. In some embodiments, flight control computer 44 includes a thrust controller 46 that controls the thrust of rotorcraft 10 using fan assemblies 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d. Thrust controller 46 may be in mechanical, electrical, wireless, computer or any other type of communication 48 with fan assemblies 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d. Thrust controller 46 includes a thrust determination module 50 to determine an amount by which to change or correct the thrust, including orientation, of rotorcraft 10. In determining the thrust adjustment for rotorcraft 10, thrust determination module 50 may include and utilize any number or combination of the following sensors: a ram air sensor, downwash sensor, airspeed sensor, altitude sensor, attitude sensor, wind velocity sensor, cyclic control position sensor, collective control position sensor, roll rate sensor, yaw rate sensor, pitch rate sensor, acceleration sensor, such as a normal, lateral and/or longitudinal acceleration sensor, swashplate angle sensor, rotor flapping sensor, mechanical failure sensor, health monitoring system, descent rate sensor, traffic alert sensor or any other sensor suitable to perform the illustrative embodiments disclosed herein. Thrust controller 46 also includes a fan control module 52 to modify the thrust of rotorcraft 10 using fan assemblies 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d. Fan control module 52 may determine the thrust magnitude of each fan assembly 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d that is required to achieve the desired orientation or thrust of rotorcraft 10 as determined by thrust determination module 50. Fan control module 52 may also determine how quickly thrust must be implemented so that the desired orientation or thrust is achieved in a timely manner. Fan control module 52 may thus determine whether and how fast to rotate each fan assembly 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d, taking into account that central fan assembly 22 has a higher rotational inertia, and thus a lower angular acceleration, than fan assemblies 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d. In one non-limiting example, thrust determination module 50 may determine that a thrust is needed to quickly balance the roll of rotorcraft 10, and fan control module 52 may activate fan assemblies 24 c and 24 d to quickly adjust the roll of rotorcraft 10. In another example, thrust determination module 50 may determine that a thrust is needed to level the pitch of rotorcraft 10, and fan control module 52 may activate fan assemblies 24 a and 24 d to quickly adjust the pitch of rotorcraft 10. Thrust controller 46 thus enhances the handling, maneuverability and controllability of rotorcraft 10 by selectively activating fan assemblies 22, 24 a, 24 b, 24 c, 24 d depending on the thrust and responsiveness requirements of the operational circumstance.
  • It should be appreciated that rotorcraft 10 is merely illustrative of a variety of aircraft that can implement the embodiments disclosed herein. Indeed, propulsion system 20 may be implemented on any aircraft with two or more fans or rotors. Other aircraft implementations can include hybrid aircraft, tiltrotor aircraft, tiltwing aircraft, quad tiltrotor aircraft, unmanned aircraft, gyrocopters, airplanes, helicopters and the like. Propulsion system 20 may also be utilized on any rotorcraft having a distributed propulsion system with two or more rotors powered by an electrical, hydraulic, mechanical or other energy source. As such, those skilled in the art will recognize that propulsion system 20 can be integrated into a variety of aircraft configurations. It should be appreciated that even though aircraft are particularly well-suited to implement the embodiments of the present disclosure, non-aircraft vehicles and devices can also implement the embodiments.
  • Referring to FIGS. 2A-2B in the drawings, various propulsion system configurations are shown by which to differentiate the rotational inertias of the fan assemblies therein. Referring to FIG. 2A, rotorcraft 100 includes high inertia fan assembly 102, which is centrally located between low inertia fan assemblies 104 a, 104 b, 104 c, 104 d. Low inertia fan assemblies 104 a, 104 b, 104 c, 104 d are radially symmetric about high inertia fan assembly 102. Each fan assembly 102, 104 a, 104 b, 104 c, 104 d includes a motor 106, 108 a, 108 b, 108 c, 108 d and fan blades 110, 112 a, 112 b, 112 c, 112 d, respectively. High inertia fan assembly 102 has a higher rotational inertia than low inertia fan assemblies 104 a, 104 b, 104 c, 104 d. While fan blades 110 and fan blades 112 a, 112 b, 112 c, 112 d each have the same length, high inertia fan assembly 102 includes a larger number of fan blades 110. High inertia fan assembly 102 includes eight fan blades and low inertia fan assemblies 104 a, 104 b, 104 c, 104 d each include two fan blades, although the exact number of fan blades may differ depending on the embodiment. Because high inertia fan assembly 102 includes a larger number of fan blades, fan blades 110 collectively have a higher rotational inertia, have a lower angular acceleration and are capable of producing a higher maximum thrust than fan blades 112 a, 112 b, 112 c, 112 d of each low inertia fan assembly 104 a, 104 b, 104 c, 104 d. Also contributing to the higher rotational inertia of high inertia fan assembly 102 is circumferential tip ring 114 coupled to the outboard tips of fan blades 110 and rotatable with high inertia fan assembly 102. Circumferential tip ring 114 may help reduce tip and efficiency losses, increase thrust performance and reduce the noise produced by high inertia fan assembly 102. Circumferential tip ring 114 may also help to reduce the edgewise flow on fan blades 110 during flight, which can cause undesirable forces to act upon rotorcraft 100.
  • Referring to FIG. 2B, rotorcraft 116 includes high inertia fan assembly 118, which is centrally located between low inertia fan assemblies 120 a, 120 b, 120 c, 120 d. Low inertia fan assemblies 120 a, 120 b, 120 c, 120 d are radially symmetric about high inertia fan assembly 118. Each fan assembly 118, 120 a, 120 b, 120 c, 120 d includes a motor 122, 124 a, 124 b, 124 c, 124 d and fan blades 126, 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d, respectively. High inertia fan assembly 118 has a higher rotational inertia than low inertia fan assemblies 120 a, 120 b, 120 c, 120 d. Despite fan blades 126, 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d each having the same length, high inertia fan assembly 118 achieves a higher rotational inertia than low inertia fan assemblies 120 a, 120 b, 120 c, 120 d by virtue of fan blades 126 being formed from a different material than fan blades 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d. In particular, fan blades 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d are formed from a lighter material than fan blades 126. In one non-limiting example, fan blades 126 may be formed from an aluminum or aluminum alloy material and fan blades 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d may be formed from a lighter composite or carbon-based material. Such composite or carbon-based materials may be more expensive than the material from which fan blades 126 are formed. If cost is a compelling design constraint, composite, carbon-based or other expensive materials may be more sparingly used throughout the fan assemblies of rotorcraft 116. In some embodiments, fan blades 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d may be formed from a low inertia and low strength material and fan blades 126 may be formed from a high inertia and high strength material.
  • In some embodiments, fan blades 126 of high inertia fan assembly 118 may include tip weights to increase the rotational inertia of fan blades 126, which may also assist high inertia fan assembly 118 in performing an autorotation maneuver. The rotational inertias of fan assemblies 118, 120 a, 120 b, 120 c, 120 d may also be differentiated from one another by varying the widths of fan blades 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d relative to fan blades 126. For example, width 130 of fan blades 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d may be smaller than width 132 of fan blades 126. The rotational inertias of fan assemblies 118, 120 a, 120 b, 120 c, 120 d may also be differentiated from one another by varying the surface areas of fan blades 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d relative to fan blades 126. The widths and surface areas of fan blades 126, 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d may differ whether or not fan blades 126, 128 a, 128 b, 128 c, 128 d are formed from the same material. In the illustrative embodiments, the fan blades of the high inertia fan assemblies may have a higher collective mass than the fan blades of the low inertia fan assemblies by virtue of being longer, wider, more numerous, larger or heavier or by virtue of any other physical attribute.
  • Referring to FIGS. 3A-3F in the drawings, various propulsion system configurations for a rotorcraft are schematically illustrated. Referring to FIGS. 3A-3B, rotorcraft 200 includes four low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d and a centrally-located high inertia fan assembly 204 each having respective fan blades rotated by a respective motor. Low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d are radially symmetric about mast 206 of high inertia fan assembly 204. High inertia fan assembly 204 has a higher rotational inertia than low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d. Low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d are disposed underneath rotor disk 208 of high inertia fan assembly 204. Therefore, low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d are within the rotor wash of high inertia fan assembly 204. While low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d are illustrated as inboard of the outer circumference of rotor disk 208, low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d may also be partially or fully outboard of the outer circumference of rotor disk 208. Low inertia fan assemblies 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d may be disposed any distance 210 beneath high inertia fan assembly 204. In other embodiments, the distances between high inertia fan assembly 204 and each low inertia fan assembly 202 a, 202 b, 202 c, 202 d may be non-uniform.
  • Referring to FIG. 3C, rotorcraft 214 includes six low inertia fan assemblies 216 a, 216 b, 216 c, 216 d, 216 e, 216 f and a centrally-located high inertia fan assembly 218 each having respective fan blades rotated by a respective motor. Low inertia fan assemblies 216 a, 216 b, 216 c, 216 d, 216 e, 216 f are symmetric about bisecting longitudinal axis 220 of rotorcraft 214. High inertia fan assembly 218 has a higher rotational inertia than low inertia fan assemblies 216 a, 216 b, 216 c, 216 d, 216 e, 216 f. Rotorcraft 214 may have any ratio of low inertia fan assemblies to high inertia fan assemblies, such as 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 4:2, 6:1, 3:2, 9:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 2:4, 1:6, 2:3, 9:1 or any other ratio. Cranes 222 a, 222 b, 222 c, 222 d, 222 e, 222 f each support a single respective low inertia fan assembly 216 a, 216 b, 216 c, 216 d, 216 e, 216 f, but in other embodiments each crane 222 a, 222 b, 222 c, 222 d, 222 e, 222 f may support more than one fan assembly.
  • Referring to FIG. 3D, rotorcraft 226 includes wings 228, 230 supported by fuselage 232. High inertia fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b are rotatably coupled to the outboard ends of wings 228, 230, and each include a shroud, or duct, 236 a, 236 b, respectively. Low inertia fan assemblies 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d also include a respective shroud, or duct, 240 a, 240 b, 240 c, 240 d. Shrouds 240 a, 240 b of low inertia fan assemblies 238 a, 238 b are coupled to shroud 236 a of high inertia fan assembly 234 a by connection members 242 a, 242 b, respectively. Low inertia fan assemblies 238 a, 238 b may be fixed or tiltable relative to high inertia fan assembly 234 a depending on the embodiment. Shrouds 240 c, 240 d of low inertia fan assemblies 238 c, 238 d are coupled to shroud 236 b of high inertia fan assembly 234 b by connection members 242 c, 242 d, respectively. Low inertia fan assemblies 238 c, 238 d may be fixed or tiltable relative to high inertia fan assembly 234 b depending on the embodiment. Fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b, 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d each have respective fan blades rotated by a respective motor. Fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b, 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d are symmetric about bisecting longitudinal axis 244 of rotorcraft 226. High inertia fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b have a higher rotational inertia than low inertia fan assemblies 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d. High inertia fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b may be tiltable relative to fuselage 232 about tilt axis 246, thus allowing fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b, 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d to provide thrust in multiple directions. In at least this respect, rotorcraft 226 may be a tiltrotor aircraft in which fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b, 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d provide thrust for both vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and forward flight depending on the tilt orientation of fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b, 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d. Although all fan assemblies 234 a, 234 b, 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d are shrouded in the illustrated embodiment, rotorcraft 226 may include any ratio of open fan assemblies to shrouded fan assemblies. For example, low inertia fan assemblies 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d may instead be open fan assemblies. Also, although low inertia fan assemblies 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d are coupled to shrouds 236 a, 236 b, low inertia fan assemblies 238 a, 238 b, 238 c, 238 d may instead be coupled directly to fuselage 232 or another portion of rotorcraft 226.
  • Referring to FIGS. 3E-3F, unmanned rotorcraft 250 includes fuselage 252 surrounded by a closed wing 254. High inertia fan assembly 256 is rotatably coupled to fuselage 252 and low inertia fan assemblies 258 are rotatably coupled to closed wing 254. Closed wing 254 is coupled to fuselage 252 by spokes 260. Fan assemblies 256, 258 are each open fan assemblies and have respective fan blades rotated by a respective electric or hydraulic motor. High inertia fan assembly 256 has a higher rotational inertia than low inertia fan assembly 258. While nine low inertia fan assemblies 258 and a single high inertia fan assembly 256 are shown in the illustrated embodiment, rotorcraft 250 may include any number of low or high inertia fan assemblies depending on the requirements and desired attributes of the rotorcraft. In some embodiments, high inertia fan assembly 256 may include variable pitch fan blades. Also, any number of fan assemblies 256, 258 may be shrouded instead of open. In other embodiments, spokes 260 may also include fan assemblies rotatably coupled thereto.
  • The flight control computers of the present embodiments preferably include computing elements such as non-transitory computer readable storage media that include computer instructions executable by processors for controlling flight operations. The computing elements may be implemented as one or more general-purpose computers, special purpose computers or other machines with memory and processing capability. The computing elements may include one or more memory storage modules including, but is not limited to, internal storage memory such as random access memory, non-volatile memory such as read only memory, removable memory such as magnetic storage memory, optical storage, solid-state storage memory or other suitable memory storage entity. The computing elements may be implemented as microprocessor-based systems operable to execute program code in the form of machine-executable instructions. The computing elements may be selectively connectable to other computer systems via a proprietary encrypted network, a public encrypted network, the Internet or other suitable communication network that may include both wired and wireless connections.
  • The foregoing description of embodiments of the disclosure has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the disclosure to the precise form disclosed, and modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings or may be acquired from practice of the disclosure. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to explain the principals of the disclosure and its practical application to enable one skilled in the art to utilize the disclosure in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. Other substitutions, modifications, changes and omissions may be made in the design, operating conditions and arrangement of the embodiments without departing from the scope of the present disclosure. Such modifications and combinations of the illustrative embodiments as well as other embodiments will be apparent to persons skilled in the art upon reference to the description. It is, therefore, intended that the appended claims encompass any such modifications or embodiments.

Claims (20)

What is claimed is:
1. A propulsion system for a rotorcraft comprising:
a first fan assembly including a plurality of first fan blades;
a second fan assembly including a plurality of second fan blades; and
a drive system adapted to provide torque to the first and second fan blades;
wherein, the first fan blades have a larger rotational inertia than the second fan blades; and
wherein, the second fan blades are adapted to experience a larger angular acceleration than the first fan blades in response to torque from the drive system, thereby providing responsive thrust control for the rotorcraft.
2. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the first and second fan blades further comprise fixed pitch fan blades.
3. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the first fan blades are longer than the second fan blades.
4. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the first fan blades are formed from a different material than the second fan blades.
5. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the plurality of first fan blades include a larger number of fan blades than the plurality of second fan blades.
6. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the first fan blades are wider than the second fan blades.
7. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the first fan blades further comprise a circumferential tip ring.
8. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein at least one of the first or second fan assemblies further comprise a shrouded fan assembly.
9. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein at least one of the first or second fan assemblies further comprise an open fan assembly.
10. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the first fan blades are adapted to provide a larger maximum thrust than the second fan blades.
11. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the drive system further comprises an electric motor.
12. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the drive system further comprises a hydraulic motor.
13. The propulsion system as recited in claim 1 wherein the drive system further comprises a variable speed motor.
14. A rotorcraft comprising:
a fuselage; and
a propulsion system coupled to the fuselage, the propulsion system comprising:
a first fan assembly including a plurality of first fan blades;
a second fan assembly including a plurality of second fan blades; and
a drive system adapted to provide torque to the first and second fan blades;
wherein, the first fan blades have a larger rotational inertia than the second fan blades; and
wherein, the second fan blades are adapted to experience a larger angular acceleration than the first fan blades in response to torque from the drive system, thereby providing responsive thrust control for the rotorcraft.
15. The rotorcraft as recited in claim 14 wherein the second fan assembly further comprises a plurality of second fan assemblies.
16. The rotorcraft as recited in claim 15 wherein the plurality of second fan assemblies further comprise at least four second fan assemblies.
17. The rotorcraft as recited in claim 15 wherein the first fan assembly further comprises a central fan assembly including a mast; and
wherein the second fan assemblies are radially symmetric about the mast of the central fan assembly.
18. The rotorcraft as recited in claim 17 wherein the central fan assembly forms a rotor disk and the second fan assemblies are disposed outboard of the rotor disk of the central fan assembly.
19. The rotorcraft as recited in claim 17 wherein the central fan assembly forms a rotor disk and the second fan assemblies are disposed underneath the rotor disk of the central fan assembly.
20. The rotorcraft as recited in claim 17 wherein the first fan blades of the central fan assembly further comprise variable pitch fan blades; and
wherein the second fan blades of the second fan assemblies further comprise fixed pitch fan blades.
US15/909,246 2018-03-01 2018-03-01 Propulsion Systems for Rotorcraft Abandoned US20190270516A1 (en)

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EP18216007.7A EP3533708B1 (en) 2018-03-01 2018-12-31 Rotorcraft and propulsion systems for rotorcraft
CN201910154777.6A CN110217384A (en) 2018-03-01 2019-03-01 Propulsion system for rotor craft
US17/076,399 US20210031908A1 (en) 2018-03-01 2020-10-21 Propulsion Systems for Rotorcraft

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