A new rotorcraft design framework based on reliability and cost
Scott, Robert C.
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Helicopters provide essential services in civil and military applications due to their multirole capability and operational flexibility, but the combination of the disparate performance conditions of vertical and cruising flight presents a major compromise of aerodynamic and structural efficiency. In reviewing the historical trends of helicopter design and performance, it is apparent that the same compromise of design conditions which results in rotorcraft performance challenges also affects reliability and cost through vibration and fatigue among many possible factors. Although many technological approaches and design features have been proposed and researched as means of mitigating the rotorcraft affordability deficit, the assessment of their effects on the design, performance, and life-cycle cost of the aircraft has previously been limited to a manual adjustment of legacy trends in models based on regression of historical design trends. A new approach to the conceptual design of rotorcraft is presented which incorporates cost and reliability assessment methods to address the price premium historically associated with vertical flight. The methodology provides a new analytical capability that is general enough to operate as a tool for the conceptual design stage, but also specific enough to estimate the life-cycle effect of any RAM-related design technology which can be quantified in terms of weight, power, and reliability improvement. The framework combines aspects of multiple design, cost, and reliability models – some newly developed and some surveyed from literature. The key feature distinguishing the framework from legacy design and assessment methods is its ability to use reliability as a design input in addition to the flight conditions and missions used as sizing points for the aircraft. The methodology is first tested against a reference example of reliability-focused technology insertion into a legacy rotorcraft platform. Once the approach is validated, the framework is applied to an example problem consisting of a technology portfolio and a set of advanced rotorcraft configurations and performance conditions representative of capabilities desired in near-future joint service, multirole rotorcraft. The framework sizes the different rotorcraft configurations for both a baseline set of assumptions and a tradespace survey of reliability investment to search for an optimum design point corresponding to the level of technology insertion which results in the lowest life-cycle cost or highest value depending on the assumptions used. The study concludes with a discussion of the results of the reliability trade study and their possible implications for the development and acquisition of future rotorcraft.