PhD Defense by Chams Eddine Mballo

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Chams Eddine Mballo
(Advisor: Prof. J.V.R. Prasad)

will defend a doctoral thesis entitled,

Model-Based Life Extending Control for Rotorcraft


Thursday, May 19 at 9:00 a.m.
Montgomery Knight Building 317

and via Teams @: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_YzYwM2VlYWQtMDBjOC00OGU2LThmY2MtODJiODc4YTAwMjc0%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22482198bb-ae7b-4b25-8b7a-6d7f32faa083%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%22fd266e2a-0f03-42c2-a62e-6c178e3f3ad8%22%7d

Most of the fatigue-critical rotorcraft components are located in the rotor system, creating challenges for real-time load and structural health monitoring of such components. Furthermore, in forward flight, as the helicopter's main rotor rotates and simultaneously advances, a very complex aerodynamic environment dominated by large dynamic loads is created. Because of the asymmetric air flow past the main rotor, the lift forces each blade generates vary depending on its location. This creates cyclic loading that occurs at the main rotor frequency of rotation (1/rev) and at higher harmonic frequencies (n/rev, n = 2, 3 ,4, etc.) which become important for vibration, fatigue and forward flight performance. Hence, many components in the rotor system are highly loaded with cyclic loads at and multiples of the rotor frequency. In addition, during aggressive maneuvers, the low-duration high magnitude cyclic loads may lead to small amounts of localized damage, for example, localized plasticity, at stress concentration regions. It, is therefore, crucial to develop control strategies that can guard against premature fatigue failure of critical helicopter components to enable component life extension. This research aims at developing real-time algorithms for the estimation of component level dynamic loads which enable real-time load monitoring of critical rotor components and control strategies to alleviate/limit fatigue damage.

A nonlinear helicopter model with 33-inflow states and elastic blade representation is modeled in FLIGHTLAB. The developed nonlinear model gives a suitable representation of the dynamic loads that the rotor system experiences. From the nonlinear model, a first order linear time periodic (LTP) model of coupled body/rotor/inflow dynamics is extracted by performing a linearization about a periodic equilibrium. The LTP model is transformed into a linear time invariant (LTI) model using harmonic decomposition methodology. The obtained LTI model which has 1513 states is used to develop novel schemes for online estimation of rotor component loads.

The fidelity of the 1513 states LTI model is assessed in the frequency and time domains via comparison with flight test data. A model order reduction approach based on singular perturbation theory is used to reduce the 1513 states LTI model to a 10th order LTI model. The 10th order LTI model retains relevant physical states information and the fidelity of the dynamic load prediction of the 1513 states LTI model.

Using the reduced order LTI model, two component load limiting strategies to limit fatigue damage are pursued. The first one is based on a receding horizon model predictive control (i.e., Load Limiting Control (LLC) scheme) while the second one is based on active rotor control (i.e., Load Alleviation Control (LAC) via IBC scheme). In both approaches, component life extension is achieved by directly limiting fatigue life usage associated with harmonic loads. In the receding horizon model predictive control formulation, an optimal control problem is formulated where given a desired user defined maximum harmonic load limit, the estimate of control margin associated with the component load limit is found and used in the form of pilot cueing/automatic limiting to prevent the component harmonic load from exceeding the max limit. In this approach, the use of the reduced order LTI model is twofold. The component harmonic load estimation from the reduced order LTI model is used in the detection of limit violation. Furthermore, the reduced order LTI model is used to generate a mapping between limit and control margin. To assess the effectiveness of this scheme, its integration with a visual cueing system is performed and the resulting architecture is implemented and evaluated within the Georgia Tech Re-Configurable Rotorcraft Flight Simulator through piloted simulations.

On the other hand, the component load limiting scheme based on active rotor control uses the 10th order LTI model in the synthesis of a higher harmonic individual blade controller (i.e., IBC controller). The IBC controller uses load predictions from the 10th order LTI model to compute optimal higher harmonic individual blade pitch inputs to reduce specific harmonic loads. The proposed LAC via IBC scheme is found to be very effective while not having an impact on vehicle handling qualities.


  • Prof. J.V.R. Prasad – School of Aerospace Engineering (advisor), Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Daniel P. Schrage– School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Mark F. Costello – School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Joseph F. Horn– School of Aerospace Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
  • Prof. Julian J.  Rimoli– School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology



  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Tatianna Richardson
  • Created:05/13/2022
  • Modified By:Tatianna Richardson
  • Modified:05/13/2022