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Research conducted at the Advanced Vertical Flight Laboratory at Texas A&M University was featured in the IEEE Spectrum online magazine. The project highlighted, the Micro Cyclocopter, was developed by aerospace graduate student Carl Runco and Dr. Moble Benedict, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Weighing only 29 grams, it utilizes the latest advances in microelectronics technology —  (including a 1.3 gram custom-designed autopilot for stabilization — ) and carbon fiber composite construction, as well as extensive experimental data for design and optimization.

The cyclorotor, unlike traditional rotors, utilizes a horizontal axis of rotation with the blade span parallel to this axis. With the blades cyclically pitched such that each blade has a positive geometric angle of attack at the top and bottom of the circular trajectory, a net thrust is produced. The mechanism that generates this pitching motion allows instantaneous thrust vectoring capabilities, one major advantage of the cyclocopter which allows the vehicle to fly in flight regimes unsuitable for traditional helicopters and multi-copters. Additionally, recent studies have shown that a cyclorotor can achieve higher hover efficiency than a conventional rotor at smaller scales, because of uniform life distribution and favorable unsteady aerodynamic environment along the blade span. For these reasons, the cyclocopter is advantageous for applications such as search and rescue operations and indoor to outdoor surveillance and reconnaissance in which high hover efficiency, agility and gust-tolerance are needed.

Runco has presented this work at several conferences and has won the American Helicopter Society 2016 Robert L. Lichten Award and the AIAA best paper award at the regional conference. Research at AVFL is focused on next-generation hover-capable UAVs.

The article on the IEEE Spectrum can be found here: