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High Speed Microactuators for Low Aspect Ratio High Speed Micro Aircraft Surfaces

  • nathan wolf, ronald barrett-gonzalez;
Publication Date
Oct 13, 2021
DOI: 10.3390/act10100265
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This paper covers a class of actuators for modern high speed, high performance subscale aircraft. The paper starts with an explanation of the challenges faced by micro aircraft, including low power, extremely tight volume constraints, and high actuator bandwidth requirements. A survey of suitable actuators and actuator materials demonstrates that several classes of piezoceramic actuators are ideally matched to the operational environment. While conventional, linear actuation of piezoelectric actuators can achieve some results, dramatic improvements via reverse-biased spring mechanisms can boost performance and actuator envelopes by nearly an order of magnitude. Among the highest performance, low weight configurations are post-buckled precompressed (PBP) actuator arrangements. Analytical models display large deflections at bandwidths compatible with micro aircraft flight control speed requirements. Bench testing of an example PBP micro actuator powered low aspect ratio flight control surface displays +/−11° deflections through 40 Hz, with no occupation of volume within the aircraft fuselage and good correlation between theory and experiment. A wind tunnel model of an example high speed micro aircraft was fabricated along with low aspect ratio PBP flight control surfaces, demonstrating stable deflection characteristics with increasing speed and actuator bandwidths so high that all major aeromechanical modes could be easily controlled. A new way to control such a PBP stabilator with a Limit Dynamic Driver is found to greatly expand the dynamic range of the stabilator, boosting the dynamic response of the stabilator by more than a factor of four with position feedback system engaged.

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