Supercavitation is when a cavity is made to envelop a submerged body. Supercavitation can be used to achieve an order of magnitude reduction in drag on underwater vehicles. Supercavitating vehicles can reach unprecedented speeds underwater. Supercavitation has reportedly been used to create underwater vehicles that reach speeds of 370 km/h, which is significantly faster than the fastest traditional submarine vehicles.
Methods and technologies to control and maneuver supercavitating vehicles are actively being researched. The efforts to develop control strategies and assess the effectiveness of control effectors are hampered by a lack of access to working test beds and operational vehicles. This thesis describes the development and testing of an experimental test bed for validating the performance of control strategies for supercavitating vehicles. The test bed addresses the need for an experimental platform that enables researchers to test candidate control algorithms and associated technologies on a real, physical, supercavitating system.
The test bed was used to evaluate the performance of feedback control systems on a model supercavitating vehicle in a water tunnel. Two controllers were developed using H∞ control design techniques and evaluated on the test bed. The validity of the hydrodynamic model that the control designs were based on was established, and a comparison and partial validation of their performance was obtained in water tunnel experiments. The experiments demonstrated that a test bed of this kind can be used to evaluate control algorithms, and study the effects of active control systems on a supercavitating vehicle.