An Adaptive Landing Gear for Extending the Operational Range of Helicopters

Conventional skid or wheel based helicopter landing gears severely limit off-field landing possibilities, which are crucial when operating in scenarios such as mountain rescue. In this context, slopes beyond 8° and small obstacles can already pose a substantial hazard. An adaptive landing gear is proposed to overcome these limitations. It consists of four legs with one degree of freedom each. The total weight was minimized to demonstrate economic practicability. This was achieved by an innovative actuation, composed of a parallel arrangement of motor and brake, which relieves the motor from large impact loads during hard landings. The loads are alleviated by a spring-damper system acting in series to the actuation. Each leg is individually force controlled for optimal load distribution on compliant ground and to avoid tipping. The operation of the legs is fully autonomous during the landing phase. A prototype was designed and successfully tested on an unmanned helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 78 kg. Finally, the implementation of the landing gear concept on aircraft of various scales was discussed.