Whirling Wizard: Carleton masters student creating jet-smooth helicopter rides

You might call Carleton engineering student Kostyantyn Khomutov a whirling wizard.

Khomutov is using his master’s degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering at Carleton to test and launch a new system that will drastically reduce vibration and noise on helicopter blades and wind turbines.

“This innovative, first-of-its-kind technology will enable a jet-smooth ride for helicopter passengers and crews by increasing speed in level flight while decreasing maintenance costs and associated health risks for pilots and crew,” says Khomutov.

“For wind turbines, the system can also reduce large maintenance costs which are growing exponentially as wind turbine rotors become larger in size and will enable the installation of these turbines in closer proximity to populated areas than is currently permitted.”

Although Khomutov says the system, which is called Active Pitch Link, has been already manufactured and successfully tested, under centrifugal loading, more development is required in refining the product and flight testing it. He said the final helicopter product should be ready within three-four years and faster for the wind turbine market.

Khomutov is using the $100,000 prize money from his 2008 Martin Walmsley Fellowship from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, to create a new start-up company, Smart Rotor Systems (SRS) to commercialize the product.

“I really appreciate the help I received from Carleton’s Rotorcraft Group and professors Daniel Feszty and Fred Nitzsche who were already working on the concept of reduction of noise and vibration in helicopters,” says Khomutov. 

The Rotorcroft group was developing a Hybrid Control System that incorporates three different control systems on one blade. “This idea is unique and nobody else had attempted this so far except Carleton University,” says Khomutov.  The Active Pitch Link is one of these systems.

Khomutov credits the great team work and support of other Rotorcraft group members with his research. “The combination of great minds and strong group organization were the biggest aids in developing the new successful concept.”

He also acknowledges the help he has had from Carleton’s machine shops in his department as well as the Science and Technology Center (STC) – a machine shop specializing in high tech machining. “Not only have these shops manufactured the very precise parts needed, but they had also provided us with very valuable suggestions and required corrections in the design of particular parts.”

The Manotick resident recently spent four months on an exchange program at the Technical University of Munich where he acquired unique skills from the top German university in this field.

“I am delighted to be working on this kind of product that could make a real difference in the lives of so many people,” says Khomutov.

Note: See below for coverage in the Ottawa Citizen on Monday, March 16.


For more information:
Kostyantyn Khomutov

Lin Moody
Media Relations
Carleton University
613-520-2600, ext. 8705

Ottawa researchers put new spin on helicopter technology
Ottawa Citizen
March 15, 2009

OTTAWA – It looks more like a thick tip of a sewing machine than a work of groundbreaking technology, but a device that could prevent helicopter crashes is being developed in a small, sun-soaked laboratory at Carleton University.

A group of researchers created the Active Pitch Link with the goal of substantially reducing noisy vibrations in helicopters – making them smoother, faster, and yes, possibly even safer.

“Many of the helicopter accidents happen due to the failure of the so-called pitch link, and this is actually the device that we try to change with our research,” said Daniel Feszty, a professor of aerospace engineering.

Traditional pitch links are the metal rods at the top of the helicopter that link the blades to the cabin – called the fuselage – and experience intense vibrations from the high-volume movement of the blades. Sometimes, after a long period of time, the pitch links can become worn and break.

The Active Pitch Link was developed over the past six years by a team of about 14 students and professors headed by Feszty, a 37-year-old Hungarian native, and his colleague, Fred Nitzsche. Unlike the traditional version, the Active Pitch Link is also composed of springs and electrical activators, designed to absorb vibrations much more effectively.

In the event of an electrical failure, the device automatically converts back to the traditional pitch link, making it a “fail-safe design”, according to Feszty.
“The whole purpose of the Active Pitch Link is to reduce vibration,” he said. “If you reduce vibration, you reduce the fatigue load, and it’s supposed to last longer in this sense. It’s supposed to be safer . . . but of course, at this point we have to say we don’t have any thorough tests supporting this. This is one potential.”
One member of the research team, 24-year-old masters student Kostyantyn Khomutov, was awarded a $100,000 Martin Walmsley Fellowship from the Ontario Centres of Excellence last year to commercialize the device. The money will go toward starting a new business, called Smart Rotor Systems, to design and possibly manufacture the Active Pitch Link, for military and commercial helicopters. The device can also be used on wind turbines, to reduce noise and maintenance costs, as well as increase power.

For now, until the Active Pitch Link has passed the final wind tunnel and flight tests, the research in Carleton’s laboratory will continue.

But it is not without glory.
“It’s totally leading edge,” said Feszty. “This really puts Canada on the world map of helicopter research.”