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The Mesicopter: A Meso-Scale Flight Vehicle

I.Kroo, F.Prinz, R. Leitgeb, Y.L. Cheng, “The Mesicopter: A Meso-Scale Flight Vehicle”, NIAC PHASE I FINAL REPORT, 1999.

The following report summarizes the findings of a six month research investigation of the ‘mesicopter’ concept, a flying vehicle with dimensions of about two and a half centimeters. Research focused on low Reynolds number aerodynamics, motor and power system design, and meso scale fabrication methods. Our work resulted in the design, component fabrication, and assembly of two mesicopter prototypes. The first version, a 4-motor design with 1.5 cm rotor diameters, externally powered, and mounted on a constrained arm, was used to demonstrate lift off. Each motor was able to lift over 700mg, more than enough to support the weight of the 325mg motor-rotor assembly and leaving sufficient room to carry airframe and battery. A second design shows batteries and airframe integrated into a single structure, free flight tests of this vehicle are envisioned in the near future. The present work established a methodology for the fabrication of fully 3D shaped propeller blades less than 100 micron thin and with surface roughness of less than one micron. Simulations and measuments indicate the critical importance of blade shape details for aerodynamic performance. Finally, studies of currently available battery technology revealed that a free flight mesicopter with missions times of tens of minutes is feasible. The prospect of fabricating large number of mesicopters has implications for several future NASA missions.