Getting students hands-on experience in a rapidly growing new industry.
MVFT was started in February, 2018 at the University of Michigan to get students first hand experience with the technology involved with Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and more generally electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology. With the help of faculty and graduate advisors, we design, build, and fly sub-scale aircraft. We believe that UAM is the next step for urban and regional transportation, meaning that students should be involved as early as possible to prepare to work in this developing industry. This doesn't mean just us at the University of Michigan - we want to get other schools involved as well. This is why upon completion of our current design phase, we will be launching an SAE-style intercollegiate eVTOL design/build competition. We feel that if we can successfully establish a platform where student teams across the country can compete with their prototypes, we can foster an environment that will better prepare students to drive this industry forward and make their dreams a reality.
An overview of our project progression from preliminary testing to demonstrator flights
Before finalizing our propulsion and power system design, we wanted to design a testing platform to optimize several different parameters to give us the most efficient system possible. Our thrust testing measured the following parameters at various throttle levels:
We conducted this series of testing for various motor/propeller combinations and configurations. The configurations tested include single propulsor with varying propeller diameter, coaxial propulsors with varying distance (pictured left), and lateral propulsors with varying distance.
Thrust Testing & Power Electronics
eVTOL Hover Rig
Prior to building and test-flying our eVTOL tech demonstrator, we wanted a robust testing platform that would reduce the financial risk associated with test flights. To achieve this, an octocopter with the same dimensions was used to test purely vertical flight. To mimic the roll moment of inertia created by the wing on our demonstrator, we included a steel bar with 3D-printed sand boxes (not pictured) that was matched from the moments given in our CAD model.
This platform has turned out to be essential to debugging altered flight code and optimizing our platform before moving components over to the tech demonstrator for testing.
XB-1, our 10 pound technology demonstrator was designed to be a base platform for our future eVTOL efforts. It leverages two-phase propulsion to simplify our control architecture with 8 vertical motors and 2 cruise motors, and features a biplane wing to reduce stall speed and total aircraft footprint.
As of October 2019, we are preparing to graduate from hover rig testing and begin our testing period for XB-1. After testing is complete, we will use the lessons learned from the demonstrator to complete a 55 pound prototype of the aircraft which will be flight-ready in Spring 2020.