Advancements in Aerodynamic Technologies for Airfoils and Wings


Although aircraft operate over a wide range of flight conditions, current fixed geometry aircraft are optimized for only a few of these conditions. By altering the shape of the aircraft, adaptive aerodynamics can be used to increase the safety and performance of an aircraft by tailoring the aircraft for multiple light conditions. Of the various shape adaptation concepts currently being studied, the use of multiple trailing-edge flaps along the span of a wing offers a relatively high possibility of being incorporated on aircraft in the near future. Multiple trailing-edge flaps allow for effective spanwise camber adaptation with resulting drag benefits over a large speed range and load alleviation at high-g conditions. The research presented in this dissertation focuses on the development of this concept of using trailing-edge flaps to tailor an aircraft for multiple liight conditions. One of the major tasks involved in implementing trailing-edge flaps is in designing the airfoil to incorporate the flap. The first part of this dissertation presents a design formulation that incorporates aircraft performance considerations in the inverse design of low-speed laminar-flow adaptive airfoils with trailing-edge cruise flaps. The benefit of using adaptive airfoils is that the size of the low-drag region of the drag polar can be effectively increased without increasing the maximum thickness of the airfoil. Two aircraft performance parameters are considered: level-flight maximum speed and maximum range. It is shown that the lift coefficients for the lower and upper corners of the airfoil low-drag range can be appropriately adjusted to tailor the airfoil for these two aircraft performance parameters. The design problem is posed as a part of a multidimensional Newton iteration in an existing conformal-mapping based inverse design code, PROFOIL. This formulation automatically adjusts the lift coefficients for the corners of the low-drag range for a given flap deflection as required for the airfoil-aircraft matching. Examples are presented to illustrate the flapped-airfoil design approach for a general aviation aircraft and the results are validated by comparison with results from post-design aircraft performance computations. Once the airfoil is designed to incorporate a TE flap, it is important to determine the most suitable flap angles along the wing for different flight conditions. The second part of this dissertation presents a method for determining the optimum flap angles to minimize drag based on pressures measured at select locations on the wing. Computational flow simulations using a panel method are used "in the loop" for demonstrating closed-loop control of the flaps. Examples in the paper show that the control algorithm is successful in correctly adapting the wing to achieve the target lift distributions for minimizing induced drag while adjusting the wing angle of attack for operation of the wing in the drag bucket. It is shown that the "sense-and-adapt" approach developed is capable of handling varying and unpredictable inflow conditions. Such a capability could be useful in adapting long-span flexible wings that may experience significant and unknown atmospheric inflow variations along the span. To further develop the "sense-and-adapt" approach, the method was tested experimentally in the third part of the research. The goal of the testing was to see if the same results found computationally can be obtained experimentally. The North Carolina State University subsonic wind tunnel was used for the wind tunnel tests. Results from the testing showed that the "sense-and-adapt" approach has the same performance experimentally as it did computationally. The research presented in this dissertation is a stepping stone towards further development of the concept, which includes modeling the system in the Simulink environment and flight experiments using uninhabited aerial vehicles.



Adaptive Aerodynamics, WIngs, Airfoils





Aerospace Engineering