Archive for the ‘ aircraft concept ’ Category

>Focusing and streamlining my concepts into 5 steps or tiers

>I have apparently so many ideas that they can not be incorporated in one aircraft. Therefore I have concluded that there needs to be several steps or tiers with a slightly different themes.

So these are now:
Tier 1: Conventional simplicity: Low drag low power low cost twin. Small wing but high aspect ratio. Compromise: Medium power to weight ratio required. Concept usable for personal aviation.
Potential outcomes: RC-models, UAVs, Private aircraft.
Budget: Shoe-string

Tier 2: Flying wing: Suitable for diesel power, series hybrid and other non-optimal power/weight ratio powerplants. Large wing. Compromise: Poor power to weight ratio is ok.
Potential outcome: Plane with long range and diesel economy. UAV applications possible.
Budget: Shoe-string, external funding possibly needed for the large craft

Tier 3: Ladder: Large aspect ratio, climb machine. Compromise: High power to weight ratio beneficial, has impact in fuel consumption. Interference drag from multi-fuselage configuration.
Budget: External funding required. Implementation requires substantial investments in infrastructure and machinery.

Tier 4: Scissor wing delta: Aircraft that are optimized for speed and altitude.
Budget: Requires substantial investments.

Tier 5: Will happen only if tier 1-4 succeed. Idea not announced. Not all of these will be guaranteed to produce real flying aircraft, these are just categorization for a family of concepts.

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Airplane design from structural efficiency point of view combined with aerodynamics point of view – multi-domain optimization

So far I have been looking only the aerodynamics side, but it is quite evident that compromises are needed on the aerodynamics side to achieve the best structural efficiency. I think one good example is Virgin Global Flyer (Scaled Composites model 311). I have not analysed yet the structure, but common sense says that trimaran has weight placed more evenly along the wing span avoiding a very large point load in the middle where the single fuselage would normally exist. The trimaran may have more wetted area than a single fuselage, but on the other hand, weight savings in the very high aspect ratio wing and space gains for the extra fuel are in this concept very important factors.

I find the trimaran configuration quite interesting – several different engine placement configurations for example can be used with this configuration without changing the aerodynamic shape of the concept very much. It is also interesting because it allows placement of the main gear away from the center fuselage and thus provides greater stability on the ground when the aspect ratio is high even if there is fuel placed to the wings very far away from the center of gravity. And as can be seen the same design suits several different missions: Global Flyer is very much like White Knight 2 with SpaceShipTwo under it on the center. Almost the same configuration, adapted to different kind of mission for very different kind of parameters (Global Flyer = long range cruise, White Knight 2 = optimized for climb).

Global flyer drawing Google found from some site
Wikipedia has another great photo, this is from front

The configuration is not really so new and not so unproven either, as people might expect, here is one example where a similar configuration has been used a long time ago:
Northrop Widow
The only difference here is that the Northrop Widow was optimized for different mission than either of the abovementioned and that it had piston engines in front of the outer “fuselages” which were interconnected from the tail section similarly than in Adam A500 whereas the Global Flyer and White Knight Two have two separate tails. It is quite apparent why the tails are separate in these aircraft – because the outer fuselages are placed so widely apart from each other, connecting the tails would have made the tail unnecessarily large which would have caused negative effect for the drag despite it would have had fewer intersections. On the other hand, I have been looking different HALE concepts, and it is quite apparent that the number of intersections is not the major drag source in high altitude aircraft, but the induced drag is, and to minimize induced drag, more intersections can be allowed as the penalty from them is lesser than limiting the aspect ratio would be. This is why there are even some concepts considered at the moment which have wing struts – even if everybody knows that they produce drag, in some concepts, the significance of that drag can be proportionally small whereas the increased aspect ratio has major effect on minimizing the total drag of the aircraft. HALE aircraft have to be quite different than those which are designed to cruise at low altitude, the drag percentages of each contributors are quite different and “one size does not fit all”.

It is quite interesting area to explore when the structural efficiency is added to the equation in addition to the aerodynamics and the result is a compromise on both structures and aerodynamics instead of being optimized for either aerodynamics or for structures. The mission parameters tend to heavily affect both and best suited results can be achieved by combining these two and by knowing the intended use exactly, potentially bigger gains can be realized than in a concept that is a general purpose in everything (GA = GENERAL aviation).

Austin’s jet design

x-plane.com website had looked a bit boring lately, Austin’s long and interesting changelogs are hidden deep under the menu structure, looks like a design of a web designer lately.

But luckily yesterday I realized that Austin had added a link on top of the page. Small link on top of the web designer blob and that goes directly into an interesting page. Now today there are two links (as there is 9.50 beta for X-plane available too), but this one was particularly interesting in the topic of this blog: The Laminar Research X-1 Cavallo is conceived

>X-plane as educational program

>It seems that X-plane educates aerodynamics, what to expect and think about different things. I was originally saying that I am not so interested in transonic region but rather interested in high altitude. I have been reading about these, but some little things like tinkering with X-plane can cause heureka moments.

And here is what happened:
I have a model of my twin concept in X-plane simulator (obviously, why wouldn’t I). So I set in the latest incarnation the engine critical altitude to 50000 ft (which is feasible with two turbos in cascade plus the mentioned electric turbo compounding). I used 110 hp per side (equivalent of Rotax 912ULS equipped with two turbos doing turbo normalization plus intercooler and after cooler).

I was reading Roskam couple of days ago and noticed that the transonic drag is not a problem if the speed is mach 0.2 or below or not that much above that, e.g. 0.3-0.4 is still quite fine. So I was thinking that maybe it doesn’t get that high that it would become a consideration.

So so obviously, I put the plane model to climb to 55000 ft with autopilot. I had previously added the mach meter to the hud. I came back checking how it flies after couple of tens of minutes. And oops: mach 0.56 when level at 55000 ft. The IAS was barely 100 kts. TAS was a quite a bit higher.

Then, I was thinking what happens to the Reynolds number. Indeed it gets smaller with altitude increasing. But interesting thing is what really happens, to which number it gets. I verified with atmosphere calculator, that indeed, the interesting Re range for this kind of concept with the AR=14 wing, it becomes 600000 – 1600000. That is _very_ low for an aircraft, which is full size and not a RC-model. So the low Re becomes after all a major consideration.

How a plane with AR=14 flies at 55000 ft? It requires _full_ trim aft (meaning nose high) to get the plane keep level – in this model. It became quite apparent that indeed, the tail volume coefficient is a more major concern at high altitude than at low altitude. And the control authority that felt fine at low altitude was not so fine at high altitude.

So this is what we have:
– High performance low Re airfoil is very necessary
– Cd at high lift coefficient is an important design point, the airfoil needs to be designed so that it gives high L/D at high lift coefficient rather than at low lift coefficient like for example NLF414F is targeting.
– A big tail with long enough moment arm
– Propeller with large diameter and possibly more blades than usual, e.g. 5 blades
– And of course, two turbos, intercooler, aftercooler, generator, battery, electric motor and a shaft between the prop and the engine.

Btw, my model is not yet available for download because it is not perfect, and it has couple of problems. It is very hard to get the splines right with straight sections edited by hand, and e.g. engine nacelles look really terrible at the moment. Anyway, it is a fun way for trying out things in practice.

X-plane as educational program

It seems that X-plane educates aerodynamics, what to expect and think about different things. I was originally saying that I am not so interested in transonic region but rather interested in high altitude. I have been reading about these, but some little things like tinkering with X-plane can cause heureka moments.

And here is what happened:
I have a model of my twin concept in X-plane simulator (obviously, why wouldn’t I). So I set in the latest incarnation the engine critical altitude to 50000 ft (which is feasible with two turbos in cascade plus the mentioned electric turbo compounding). I used 110 hp per side (equivalent of Rotax 912ULS equipped with two turbos doing turbo normalization plus intercooler and after cooler).

I was reading Roskam couple of days ago and noticed that the transonic drag is not a problem if the speed is mach 0.2 or below or not that much above that, e.g. 0.3-0.4 is still quite fine. So I was thinking that maybe it doesn’t get that high that it would become a consideration.

So so obviously, I put the plane model to climb to 55000 ft with autopilot. I had previously added the mach meter to the hud. I came back checking how it flies after couple of tens of minutes. And oops: mach 0.56 when level at 55000 ft. The IAS was barely 100 kts. TAS was a quite a bit higher.

Then, I was thinking what happens to the Reynolds number. Indeed it gets smaller with altitude increasing. But interesting thing is what really happens, to which number it gets. I verified with atmosphere calculator, that indeed, the interesting Re range for this kind of concept with the AR=14 wing, it becomes 600000 – 1600000. That is _very_ low for an aircraft, which is full size and not a RC-model. So the low Re becomes after all a major consideration.

How a plane with AR=14 flies at 55000 ft? It requires _full_ trim aft (meaning nose high) to get the plane keep level – in this model. It became quite apparent that indeed, the tail volume coefficient is a more major concern at high altitude than at low altitude. And the control authority that felt fine at low altitude was not so fine at high altitude.

So this is what we have:
– High performance low Re airfoil is very necessary
– Cd at high lift coefficient is an important design point, the airfoil needs to be designed so that it gives high L/D at high lift coefficient rather than at low lift coefficient like for example NLF414F is targeting.
– A big tail with long enough moment arm
– Propeller with large diameter and possibly more blades than usual, e.g. 5 blades
– And of course, two turbos, intercooler, aftercooler, generator, battery, electric motor and a shaft between the prop and the engine.

Btw, my model is not yet available for download because it is not perfect, and it has couple of problems. It is very hard to get the splines right with straight sections edited by hand, and e.g. engine nacelles look really terrible at the moment. Anyway, it is a fun way for trying out things in practice.

Boom tail microlight/LSA

I was thinking which could be a suitable configuration if target would be to the microlight category (Finnish ultralight will be aligned with European microlight), or to EASA LSA category. The US-LSA category is stupid since it has some severe limitations which removes the reason to try to optimize anything – the speed limitation and also the stall speed limitation as clean -> with these limitations, it does not worth optimizing the aerodynamic performance or flap configuration, for US-LSA, the best solution probably would to design a plane, which is as lightweight as possible and which would not have any kind of flaps and which would achieve the stall speed only with the wing area (because that is what the limitation implies anyhow), so the utilized Clmax becomes close to 1.0, which is poor.

The main criteria in this more sane European category is the weight and the second main criteria is the stall speed. These are the most important features, other features are secondary. The performance can not be optimal, but it can be optimized to the constraints given by the weight and stall speed limitations. It would be also necessary to cut the part count to minimum, an inexpensive plane will be for sure more popular than the more expensive one, in the category where the buyers are not the richest people out there (who would anyhow order a Cirrus-Jet), but normal hobbyists who are not swimming in money.

So consider this:
– Plane structure would be based on carbon fiber rods (pultrusion rods).
– The fuselage would not be a structural member of the plane, but rather a baggage pod located below the spars. The twin booms would be a pultrusion rod each. The engine would be mounted to the wing spar rather than to the fuselage. These rods could have aerodynamic fairings on top of them (which also allow space for control cables etc.).
– high aspect ratio wing, which enables good climb rate with low power
– HKS700E engine in pusher configuration
– Fixed pitch pusher propeller behind the pod (but thrust line to the wing spar).
– inverted V-tail in the ends of the two booms, and the tail would connect the
two booms with the help of a pultrusion rod which functions as spar.
– Main landing gear connected to wing spar
– Nose gear located under the pod.
– Wing structure would be solid blue styrofoam, and in wing root there would be a large fairing which contains fuel (on both sides). The wing skin could be either carbon fiber or fiberglass (fiberglass to reduce cost obviously)

Think how many parts this requires compared to how many parts and layup schedules is usually needed. The pod type cockpit could be almost a complete monococue. There would be need for only instrument panel and some structure where one can assemble the pedals. Also the instrument panel, as we know it, does not need to be like it is, a panel. There are other ways arranging instruments in the plane than having a straight panel where everything is put with tiny screws. None of the modern cars use that old-fashioned way anymore. With modern avionics, you don’t need a big panel with lots of switches, knobs, circular gauges etc. You can have just two screens which display and control everything.

The only strength needed in the fuselage is for crashworthiness, it does not need to carry any loads, and it does not need to be shaped unoptimally to avoid flutter tendency for example, all structural members are straight lines and separate from the fuselage.

The idea comes from some NASA PAV concepts, but as modified. It also has some influences from the Sunseeker.

The concept could have idea of being as lightweight as possible (the lower power engine also supports this mission) and still being as highly performing as possible (that can be achieved with the light weight and aerodynamics, not so much trust is needed).

So the performance target setting for conceptual design could be:
– beat 100 hp Dynaero MCR-ULC in empty weight with large margin
– be on par with 100 hp Dynaero MCR-ULC in speed (with only 60% of the power available)
– and the rest comes from the category limitations
– be a lot cheaper than most other same category plane on the market
– climb rate 800 fpm (remember that because of the low climb speed, the climb gradient is high despite of the not so high number compared to high performance aircraft)

Compromise:
– beat 100 hp Dynaero MCR-ULC in empty weight
– cruise speed compromised to between 80 hp WT9 Dynamic and 80 hp MCR.
– climb rate 600 fpm

Failure:
– heavier than MCR-ULC
– slower than 100 kts in cruise
– climb rate less than 500 fpm

Anyone interested in a such thing or having ideas (for or against) for a such thing?

Here is an illustration about the idea (15 minutes of Rhino magic):

Boom tail microlight/LSA

I was thinking which could be a suitable configuration if target would be to the microlight category (Finnish ultralight will be aligned with European microlight), or to EASA LSA category. The US-LSA category is stupid since it has some severe limitations which removes the reason to try to optimize anything – the speed limitation and also the stall speed limitation as clean -> with these limitations, it does not worth optimizing the aerodynamic performance or flap configuration, for US-LSA, the best solution probably would to design a plane, which is as lightweight as possible and which would not have any kind of flaps and which would achieve the stall speed only with the wing area (because that is what the limitation implies anyhow), so the utilized Clmax becomes close to 1.0, which is poor.

The main criteria in this more sane European category is the weight and the second main criteria is the stall speed. These are the most important features, other features are secondary. The performance can not be optimal, but it can be optimized to the constraints given by the weight and stall speed limitations. It would be also necessary to cut the part count to minimum, an inexpensive plane will be for sure more popular than the more expensive one, in the category where the buyers are not the richest people out there (who would anyhow order a Cirrus-Jet), but normal hobbyists who are not swimming in money.

So consider this:
– Plane structure would be based on carbon fiber rods (pultrusion rods).
– The fuselage would not be a structural member of the plane, but rather a baggage pod located below the spars. The twin booms would be a pultrusion rod each. The engine would be mounted to the wing spar rather than to the fuselage. These rods could have aerodynamic fairings on top of them (which also allow space for control cables etc.).
– high aspect ratio wing, which enables good climb rate with low power
– HKS700E engine in pusher configuration
– Fixed pitch pusher propeller behind the pod (but thrust line to the wing spar).
– inverted V-tail in the ends of the two booms, and the tail would connect the
two booms with the help of a pultrusion rod which functions as spar.
– Main landing gear connected to wing spar
– Nose gear located under the pod.
– Wing structure would be solid blue styrofoam, and in wing root there would be a large fairing which contains fuel (on both sides). The wing skin could be either carbon fiber or fiberglass (fiberglass to reduce cost obviously)

Think how many parts this requires compared to how many parts and layup schedules is usually needed. The pod type cockpit could be almost a complete monococue. There would be need for only instrument panel and some structure where one can assemble the pedals. Also the instrument panel, as we know it, does not need to be like it is, a panel. There are other ways arranging instruments in the plane than having a straight panel where everything is put with tiny screws. None of the modern cars use that old-fashioned way anymore. With modern avionics, you don’t need a big panel with lots of switches, knobs, circular gauges etc. You can have just two screens which display and control everything.

The only strength needed in the fuselage is for crashworthiness, it does not need to carry any loads, and it does not need to be shaped unoptimally to avoid flutter tendency for example, all structural members are straight lines and separate from the fuselage.

The idea comes from some NASA PAV concepts, but as modified. It also has some influences from the Sunseeker.

The concept could have idea of being as lightweight as possible (the lower power engine also supports this mission) and still being as highly performing as possible (that can be achieved with the light weight and aerodynamics, not so much trust is needed).

So the performance target setting for conceptual design could be:
– beat 100 hp Dynaero MCR-ULC in empty weight with large margin
– be on par with 100 hp Dynaero MCR-ULC in speed (with only 60% of the power available)
– and the rest comes from the category limitations
– be a lot cheaper than most other same category plane on the market
– climb rate 800 fpm (remember that because of the low climb speed, the climb gradient is high despite of the not so high number compared to high performance aircraft)

Compromise:
– beat 100 hp Dynaero MCR-ULC in empty weight
– cruise speed compromised to between 80 hp WT9 Dynamic and 80 hp MCR.
– climb rate 600 fpm

Failure:
– heavier than MCR-ULC
– slower than 100 kts in cruise
– climb rate less than 500 fpm

Anyone interested in a such thing or having ideas (for or against) for a such thing?

Here is an illustration about the idea (15 minutes of Rhino magic):