3 DOF Helicopter

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Explore More Advanced Aerospace Concepts

The 3 DOF Helicopter system is a simplified helicopter model, ideally suited to introduce intermediate to advanced control concepts and theories relevant to real world applications of flight dynamics and control in the tandem rotor helicopters, or any device with similar dynamics. Students learn how to:

  • develop a state-space model of the system
  • design a state-feedback controller to regulate the elevation and travel angels of the 3 DOF Helicopter
  • simulate the closed-loop position controller and evaluate its performance using the linear model of the 3 DOF Helicopter
  • implement the designed controller on an actual system and evaluate its performance

In addition to teaching control concepts, the 3 DOF Helicopter can be used for research in various areas, including adaptive control, nonlinear control, optimal control, predictive control, fault detection and system identification.

How It Works

The 3 DOF Helicopter consists of a model helicopter body, a metal base, and an aluminum frame. The helicopter has two propellers mounted in parallel, actuated by DC motors - similarly to tandem dual rotor helicopters.

The helicopter body is suspended from an instrumented joint that is mounted at the end of a long arm and is free to pitch about its centre. The other end of the arm is fastened to the base using a two degree of freedom joint. This allows the arm, and thus the helicopter, to be rotated about the vertical axis - the travel axis - as well as up and down - the elevation axis. The other end of the arm has an adjustable counterweight that changes the effective mass of the helicopter system - making it light enough to be lifted by the thrust from the propellers. All axes are measured using high-resolution encoders to obtain precise position feedback. The slip ring mechanism on the vertical axis allows the body to rotate continuously by eliminating the need for any wires to connect the motors and encoders to the base. The front and back propellers control the movement of the helicopter.

Quanser-developed Courseware Included

The 3 DOF Helicopter comes with Quanser-developed courseware. The Laboratory Guide, together with quick start resources, a comprehensive User Manual, pre-designed controllers and a system model allow you to get your lab running faster, saving months of time typically required to develop lab materials.

  • Three degrees of freedom (3 DOF): body rotates about pitch, travel and elevation axes
  • Propellers driven by high-quality Pittman DC motors
  • High-resolution optical encoders for precise position measurements
  • Slip ring allows infinite motion about the vertical and travel axis
  • Easy-connect cables and connectors
  • Precise, stiff and heavy-duty machined components
  • Fully compatible with MATLAB®/Simulink® and LabVIEW™
  • Fully documented system models and parameters provided for MATLAB®, Simulink®, LabVIEW™ and Maple™
  • Open architecture design, allowing users to design their own controller
Device mass  6.2 kg
Device height (ground to top of base) 45 cm
Device length (counterweight to front propeller) 127 cm
Helicopter body mass 1.15 kg
Helicopter body length 49.8 cm
Base dimensions (W × L) 17.5 cm x 17.5 cm
Pitch and elevation encoders resolution (in quadrature) 4096 counts/rev
Yaw/travel encoder resolution (in quadrature) 8192 counts/rev
Pitch angle range 64 (± 32.0 deg)
Elevation angle range 63.5 deg
Travel angle range 360 deg
Pitch force thrust constant 0.22 N/V¹
Propeller diameter 20.3 cm
Propeller pitch 15.2 cm
Pitch/front motor resistance 0.83 Ω
Pitch/front motor - current-torque constant 0.0182 Nm/A
Yaw/back motor resistance 0.83 Ω
Yaw/back motor - current-torque constant 0.0182 Nm/A

¹ These parameters were identified experimentally and will be different on each system

Topics included in the Quanser-developed courseware:

  • Derivation of simple dynamic model
  • State space representation
  • State feedback control
  • LQR control design
  • Control parameters tuning
The 3 DOF Helicopter can be used to teach also other topics not included in the Quanser-developed courseware.

To set up your 3 DOF Helicopter workstation, you need additional components. Quanser engineers recommend:

for MATLAB®/Simulink® users for LabVIEW™ users
1x Q8-USB data acquisition device¹ 1x VoltPAQ-X2 linear voltage amplifier²
1x VoltPAQ-X2 linear voltage amplifier² Quanser Rapid Control Prototyping toolkit software
QUARC real-time control software and one of the following options:
  - 1x NI CompactRIO³ controller with 2x Quanser Q1-CRIO module
  - 1x NI M- or X-series data acquisition device4 with 1x Quanser NI Terminal Board

¹ alternatively, you can use QPIDe or any equivalent NI DAQ device supported by QUARC
² alternatively, you can use two VoltPAQ-X1 amplifiers

³ NI cRIO-9074, or NI cRIO-9024 with cRIO-9113 or cRIO-9114 chassis
4 NI PCIe-6351 or other NI DAQ device with 4 encoders supported by Quanser RCP toolkit. Alternatively, you can use Quanser Q8-USB, or QPIDe

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