Tilt Rotor Planes¶
Tilt rotors are treated by ArduPilot as a special type of QuadPlane. You should start off by reading the QuadPlane documentation before moving onto this tilt-rotor specific documentation.
In ArduPilot nomenclature, a tilt-rotor is a type of VTOL aircraft where transition between hover and forward flight is accomplished by tilting one or more rotors so that it provides forward thrust instead of upward thrust.
This is distinct from tailsitters where the autopilot and main fuselage change orientation when moving between hover and forward flight. Do not use the information below for a Tailsitter, some parameters are shared, but use the instructions in the Tailsitter Planes.
Types of Tilt-Rotors¶
ArduPilot supports a very wide range of tilt-rotor configurations. Common configurations include:
- tilt-quadplanes with the front two motors tilting
- tilt-quadplanes with all four motors tilting
- tilt-tricopters with the front two motors tilting and rear tilt for yaw
- tilt-tricopters with the front two motors tilting and vectored yaw
- tilt-hexacopters with the front four motors tilting
- tilt-wings where the main wing tilts along with two motors
- binary-tiltrotors where the tilt mechanism can only be in one of two positions
- continuous-tiltrotors where the tilt mechanism can be controlled to any angle in a range from straight up to straight forward
- vectored tilt-rotors where the tilt of the rotors on the left can be controlled independently from the tilt of the right motors
Combined with these variants are versions that use ailerons, elevons, vtails and other control surfaces for fixed wing flight. There are an amazing number of combinations possible, and experimentation with VTOL designs is common. ArduPilot aims to support a very wide range of tilt-rotor configurations with a small number of parameters.
Setting Up A Tilt-Rotor¶
The first thing you need to do is enable QuadPlane support by setting Q_ENABLE to 1 and Tilt Rotor support by setting Q_TILT_ENABLE = “1”, and then choose the right quadplane frame class and frame type.
The quadplane frame class is in Q_FRAME_CLASS . The frame class is chosen based on your vehicles rotor configuration while hovering. Currently supported tilt-rotor frame classes are:
Once you have chosen your frame class you will need to get the Q_FRAME_TYPE right. The Q_FRAME_TYPE is the sub-type of frame. For example, for a Quadcopter, a frame type of 1 is for a “X” frame and a frame type of 3 is for a “H” frame. For Tri and Y6, this parameter is ignored.
Please see the ArduCopter setup guide for multi-copters for more information on choosing your frame type.
The Tilt Mask¶
The most important parameter for a tilt-rotor is the tilt-mask, in the Q_TILT_MASK parameter.
The Q_TILT_MASK is a bitmask of what motors can tilt on your vehicle. The bits you need to enable correspond to the motor ordering of the standard ArduCopter motor map for your chosen frame class and frame type, ie. bit 0 corresponds to Motor 1.
For example, if you have a tilt-tricopter where the front two motors tilt, then you should set Q_TILT_MASK to 3, which is 2+1.
If you have a tilt-quadplane where all 4 motors tilt, then you should set Q_TILT_MASK to 15, which is 8+4+2+1.
The Tilt Type¶
Most tilt-rotors use normal servos for tilting their rotors. This allows the autopilot to control the angle of tilt continuously in a range from straight up to straight forward.
Some tilt-rotors instead have a binary mechanism, typically using retract servos, where the autopilot can command the servo into either a fully up or fully forward position, but can’t ask for the tilt to stop at some angle in between.
Finally some tilt-rotors have vectored control of yaw, where they can control yaw by tilting the left rotors independently of the right rotors.
You need to set the type of tilt you have using the Q_TILT_TYPE parameter. Valid values are:
Next you need to configure which servo outputs will control tilt of the tiltable rotors.
You control that with the following servo function values.
For Vectored Yaw applications, the right and left tilt servos would be used for front and/or back. You should choose normal
Tilt Reversal and Range¶
You will need to set the
SERVOn_REVERSED parameter on your tilt servos
according to the direction of your servos. You should adjust so that
in MANUAL mode the rotors are tilted forward and in QSTABILIZE mode
they point straight up.
You will probably also need to adjust the SERVOn_MIN an SERVOn_MAX values to adjust the range of movement and the exact angle of each servo for forward flight and hover.
The Q_TILT_MAX parameter controls the tilt angle during transitions for continuous tilt vehicles. It is the angle in degrees that the rotors will move to while waiting for the transition airspeed to be reached.
The right value for Q_TILT_MAX depends on how much tilt you need to achieve sufficient airspeed for the wings to provide most of the lift. For most tilt-rotors the default of 45 degrees is good.
A critical parameter for tilt rotors is how quickly they move the tilt servos when transitioning between hover and forward flight.
The two parameters that control tilt rate are:
- Q_TILT_RATE_UP is the tilt rate upwards in degrees per second
- Q_TILT_RATE_DN is the tilt rate downwards in degrees per second
How fast you should move the tilt servos depends on a number of factors, particularly on how well tuned your vehicle is for multi-rotor flight. In general it is recommended to err on the side of slow transitions for initial testing, then slowly speed it up as needed.
A typical value would be 15 degrees per second for both up and down.
Note that there are some automatic exceptions to the tilt rate in the ArduPilot tilt-rotor code:
- the tilt rate when changing to MANUAL mode is 90 degrees per second. This gives you rapid forward flight control in case MANUAL mode is needed.
- once a forward transition is completed then the motors will cover any remaining angle at 90 degrees per second.
For Binary type tilt servos these rates should be set at the actual measured rate of the servo since it’s independent of ArduPilot control.
Tilt Stabilization Assist in Fixed Wing Flight¶
It is possible to use the tilt motors (if not the BINARY tilt type) to aid in fixed wing roll and pitch control. This is activated if the Q_TILT_FIX_GAIN is greater than zero, which determines how much control demand results in tilting of the motors. The maximum tilt angle achievable is determined by the Q_TILT_FIX_ANGLE parameter. It is recommended to start with 0.1 for the Q_TILT_FIX_GAIN and work your way up to desired the response.
In order to setup the ranges of the servo movement, see Tilt Rotor Servo Setup.
Vectored yaw aircraft tilt the left and right rotors separately to control yaw in hover. This reduces mechanical complexity in tilt-tricopters as it avoids the need for a tilt servo for the rear motor for yaw control.
For example, if you have a tilt-tricopter with vectored yaw, and your motors can tilt through a total of 110 degrees from forward flight, then your Q_TILT_YAW_ANGLE would be 20, as that is the angle past 90 degrees that the tilt mechanism can go.
You also need to setup your two tilt servos with
for left front tilt and
SERVOn_FUNCTION =76 for right front tilt.
In order to setup the ranges of the servo movement, see Tilt Rotor Servo Setup.
Non-Vectored yaw aircraft (Q_TILT_TYPE = 0 or 1) needs a tilt servo for yaw control.
You need to setup your front tilt servos with
SERVOn_FUNCTION=41 and also your servo for yaw control with
SERVOn_FUNCTION=39, if the frame is a Tricopter. You should set up the yaw servo’s maximum lean angle in degrees with Q_M_YAW_SV_ANGLE. This lean angle assumes that
SERVOn_MAX, represent +/- 90 degrees, with
SERVOn_TRIM representing 0 degrees lean.
SERVO_FUNCTION=39 is normally the output function for motor 7, but in a non-vectored yaw tilt-rotor Tricopter, the yaw servo is controlled via
SERVOn_FUNCTION = 39.
If you wish to setup BLEHeli esc telemetry, you need to set Q_M_PWM_TYPE to 4 (DShot 150), connect the telemetry signal to a SERIAL port, and set its
SERIALn_PROTOCOL to 23.
Note that if you want to use BLHeli passthru setup or telemetry in a non-vectored yaw Tricopter, you must not set SERVO_BLH_AUTO to 1. Instead, set SERVO_BLH_MASK to the output-bitmask of the servo-channels actually connected BLHELI-ESCs.
For example if your motors are connected to servo 9,10,11 (the first three aux-outputs of a pixhawk1), set SERVO_BLH_MASK to 1792.
This is a special case of tilt-rotor QuadPlane. Setup is a bit different, but the configuration is actually a normal QuadPlane and performs QuadPlane transitions. In order to setup this vehicle configuration:
Motor and Tilt Setup¶
For motors and tilt servos,you should set the SERVOn_FUNCTION values for your two tilt servos for the left and right motors, and for the left and right motor throttles.
The tilt servo limits are setup a bit differently than other Tilt Rotors. To setup, a normal tilt rotor range, you would set the Q_TILT_YAW_ANGLE, then the tilt servo’s MIN and MAX output range to get vertical in QSTABLIZE and horizontal in MANUAL on the bench.The TRIM value is ignored.
With this frame type, the tilt servo’s MIN sets horizontal position, TRIM the vertical position, and MAX the full rearward (max VTOL yaw). In this case, the user must set the Q_TILT_YAW_ANGLE for the amount of forward yaw from vertical (should match the rearward angle to prevent asymmetric yaw authority in one direction).
MIN and MAX may be swapped if the tilt servo had to be reversed to get proper directions.
Otherwise, this frame type conforms to the normal vectored yaw tilt-rotor QuadPlane transitions, and parameters.
Tilt Wing Flap Emulation¶
Tilt Wing Tilt Rotors are where the entire wing rotates, instead of the motors. These frames use the “TiltMotorsFront”
SERVOx_FUNCTION (41) to tilt the entire wing for fixed-wing or VTOL operation.
You can also set up the wing to tilt just like (or in addition to) normal manually controlled or automaticflaps, and the wing will tilt in fixed wing modes just as a flap would activate. The amount of wing tilt when flaps are fully extended is set by the Q_TILT_WING_FLAP parameter to tilt the wing up to 15 degrees when full flaps are activated.
Pre Flight Checks¶
In addition to the normal pre-flight checks for a QuadPlane, you should check your tilt-rotor transition by changing between MANUAL and QSTABILIZE modes on the ground. Make sure that your tilt moves smoothly and that the servos are trimmed correctly for the right rotor angles.