Over the past decade the study of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) has generated increasing interest due to their potential military, intelligence and civilian applications. One of the primary obstacles in the development of MAVs is the lack of accurate analytical or numerical methods for determining the performance of a particular design. Experimental methods are more prevalent but are difficult to realize because of the large costs and fragility of equipment needed to capture the very small forces associated with MAVs. This research presents the design, implementation and testing of two new wind tunnel balances for capturing longitudinal aerodynamic data (lift, drag and pitching moment) from MAV scale models. The first is a modification of earlier work at RIT and relies on simple mechanical principles to capture lift and drag independently. The second, the primary focus of this project, is the development of an entirely new, low-cost, LabVIEW-integrated load cell balance. The balance captures all data simultaneously and provides real-time monitoring of the system and computer logging capabilities. Both balances are tested using simple models and compared to published data. Also, the RIT MAV developed in the spring of 2004 is tested to demonstrate the validity of using the load cell balance to test full vehicles for the emerging RIT Micro Air Vehicle Program. A comparison is made between the experimental results and flight testing experience. The results of the testing show excellent correlation to published data for lift and drag. Pitching moment results remain ambiguous due to large uncertainty. Several potential causes for pitching moment inaccuracy are discussed and solutions and recommendations are presented to correct them. Despite this, the balances are shown to be excellent, user-friendly and low-cost tools for gathering accurate aerodynamic data from MAVs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Airplanes--Design and construction; Wind tunnel balances; Aerodynamics; Aerofoils; Drone aircraft

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Mechanical Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)


Kevin Kochersberger

Advisor/Committee Member

Jeff Kozak

Advisor/Committee Member

A Ghosh


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at TL671.2 .W35 2004


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