TUM developing new simulation software
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is developing new simulation software to improve helicopter pilot training for extreme flight conditions.
Turbulent air flows near oil rigs, ships, cliffs and tall buildings present handling challenges for helicopter pilots, as do missions at sea and in mountainous regions.
TUM is developing new simulation software that uses real-time computational analysis for both fluid mechanics and flight dynamics, to overcome the fact that current flight simulators do not adequately reflect the reality of flying in close proximity to large objects.
Unforeseen air flows can be treacherous; a moving ship causes air turbulence and sudden local shifts in wind speed known as ‘ship airwake flow’. These change continually through wave action and fluctuating inflow conditions, and turbulence also occurs near the deck, the bridge and other ship structures, so that as a helicopter approaches the ship, there is interference between these air currents and the flow produced by the rotors. Conditions near a mountain slope or next to high buildings are similarly complicated. In all of these cases, the helicopter's flight characteristics are influenced by complex and overlapping aerodynamic effects.
Currently expertise in these situations is gained through conventional on-the-job training with experienced flight instructors, a practice which is expensive and risky.
The TUM simulation programme combines flow mechanics and flight dynamics in real time, and lets pilots instantly ‘feel’ the impact of the local air flows on the helicopter. This allows them to try out the effects of their control movements in a stress-free situation.
In order to test whether the virtual models actually reflect conditions at sea, engineers are cooperating with researchers at the US Naval Academy, the George Washington University and the University of Maryland. In-flight data collected by the German Aerospace Center will also be used to check flight dynamics.
According to TUM, the potential of this method has attracted international interest, including from the US Office of Naval Research, which is contributing funding under the auspices of its basic research programme.
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