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Vortex Lattice Methods


Basic Concepts
Boundary conditions on the mean surface Vortex Theorems, Biot-Savart Law The Horseshoe Vortex Selection of Control Point and Vortex Location The Classical Vortex Lattice Method

VLM (Fortran program) TORNADO (in MATLAB) AVL (Fortran/C program)

Examples of the use of VLM method Insights into wing and wing-canard aerodynamics

Using VLM Program

Xiongqing Yu
Under the Guidance of Prof. Stephen Batill at the University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, Indiana, USA February, 1998

VLM is a FORTRAN computer program estimating the subsonic aerodynamic characteristics of complex planforms.
Predicting lift and pitch moment coefficients, maximum lift coefficient, induced drag coefficient and distributions of span load for the complex configurations.

VLM is a modified version of the NASA-Langley Vortex Lattice Computer Program that had been used at the Langley Research Center and in industry. The original program has been modified to provide a useful tool for the aircraft design class in the university level.
To simplify the input and output file for the fixed wing configuration. To display the panel arrangement presenting the platforms

Program Description
The VLM consists of three subroutines:
geomtr matxso aerody

Program Description
When the total approximate panel number is specified
it is used to determine the number of chordwise horseshoe vortices the number of spanwise rows at which chordwise horseshoe vortices the panel aspect ratio is kept between 0.5 and 4

When two planforms are used to describe a wing-tail configuration, this subroutine is used to handle with panel match between two planforms.

Program Description
It is used to calculate the circulations which is required to satisfy the tangent flow boundary condition. The circulations is determined by solving a matrix equation.

Program Description
To obtain the lift and pitching moment data for configurations by using Kutta-Loukowski theorem. The final form of the output data is computed and printed by this subroutine.

Modeling the configuration

Modeling planforms
The planforms can be modeled with one or two lifting surfaces
where wing planform can consists of up to three segments, that is inboard, mid-board and out-board segments, and tail planform is modeled with a trapezoid.

Modeling dihedrals
The wing can have up to three dihedral angles corresponding to three segments of the wing. Winglets can be modeled, but the dihedral angle must be greater than -90.0 degrees or less than 90.0 degrees. The dihedral of the horizontal tail can be modeled with one dihedral angle.

Modeling twist
The wing can have up to three twist angles corresponding to three segments of the wing.
For inboard segment, the angle of its tip section with respect to its root section is used to define the twist of the inboard segment

The twists are assumed to be small and can have effect on the local angle of attack of lifting surfaces, but no effect on displacements of control points.

Modeling camber
When the airfoil of the wing is specified, its camber can be modeled with a curve determined based on tabulated data by least-square-distance curve fit
coordinates of ten points on mean camber line of the airfoil

Modeling elevator
It is assumed that the elevator can have effect on local angle of attack of the control point on the horizontal tail the effect on displacements of control points is neglected when the elevator is up or down.

Definition of axis system

Running VLM program

The input data setup
The following is the input data required to be specified.
Group one:
mach alpd plan nseg Mach number Angle of attack at root section of main wing (degree) The number of lifting surface (1 or 2) The number of wing segments(1,2 or3)

cg Center of gravity location with respect to the origin of the coordinate system. Pitch moment computation is referenced to this location.

Group two: wing external definition

b1 Span of in-board segment of the wing b2 Span of mid-board segment of the wing b3 Span of out-board segment of the wing cr Root chord of the wing ct1 Tip chord of inboard segment of the wing ct2 Tip chord of mid-board segment of the wing ct3 Tip chord of outboard segment of the wing sweep1 Sweep angle of inboard segment (leading line, in degree) sweep2 Sweep angle of mid-board segment (leading line, in degree) sweep3 Sweep angle of out-board segment (leading line, in degree) theta1 Twist angle of inboard segment ( positive for washout, in deg. ) theta2 Twist angle of mid-board segment ( positive for washout, in deg. ) theta3 Twist angle of out-board segment ( positive for washout, in deg. ) dih1 Dihedral angle of inboard segment (in degree) dih2 Dihedral angle of mid-board segment (in degree) dih3 Dihedral angle of out-board segment (in degree) alp_wing Wing incidence angle at root section clmax2d Max. lift coefficient of wing airfoil

Group 3: Horizontal tail external definition

b0 cr0 ct0 sweep0 dihtail alp_tail Semi-span of the horizontal tail or canard Root chord of the horizontal tail or canard Tip chord of the horizontal tail or canard Sweep angle of leading edge Dihedral angle of the horizontal tail Horizontal tail incidence angle

ielevator Control variable: set 1 if elevator is up or down; otherwise set 0 be cer cet delta_e Elevator span Elevator root chord Elevator tip chord Rotate angle of elevator (positive when it is up)

Group 4: Relative position definition between the wing and the horizontal tail
distx Distance between leading edge of the root section of the wing and leading edge of the root section of the horizontal tail in X-axis; Use 0 if only wing is specified (i.e. plan = 1) If canard is specified, distx should be negative; distz Vertical distance of the horizotal tail planform with respect the wing planform root chord height (in Z direction) use 0 if only wing is specified.

Group 5 : Specify camber of wing airfoil

iairfoil Control variable use 1 for camber airfoil; use 0 for symmetric airfoil stat yupper ylower Chordwise station location; range from 0 to 100 Upper surface coordinates of the specified airfoil Lower surface coordinates of the specified airfoil

Running VLM program

Run the executable file "vlm" The interface options
Input the name of input data file: Input the approximate panel numbers of semi-wing.
Note: generally, this number ranges from 40 to 190 for single wing, and from 40 to 120 for wing-tail configuration.

Enter name of output file: Enter 0 for brief output. Usually use this option. Enter 1 for detail output. This option is rarely used.

Displaying panel arrangement

You can check input file to verify its correction by displaying panel arrangement. Under the MATLAB environment, run M-file "panelshow", and the panel arrangement will be displayed on a window.

The output file

Two options
brief output
total panel layout aerodynamic characteristics of total configuration

detail output
each panel information

All the items of output data for detail output

x c/4 X location of quarter-chord at the horseshoe vortex midspan. x 3c/4 X location of three-quarter-chord at the horseshoe vortex midspan. This is location of the control point. y z s Y location of the horseshoe vortex midspan. Z location of the horseshoe vortex midspan. Semiwidth of horseshoe vortex

c/4 sweep angle Sweep angle of the quarter-chord of the elemental panel and horseshoe vortex. dihedral angle Dihedral angle of elemental panel local alpha in radians Local angle of attack in radians at control point. delta cp Cp normal to the surface at dihedral for each elemental panel under the flight condition. This is located across the panel as an average. It corresponds to the incremental lift associated with the bound vortex strength of the particular panel ref.chord c average Reference chord of the configuration Average chord, cav, true configuration area divided by true span

total area

Total area computed from the configuration listed.

reference area User input reference area ( wing area ) b/2 Maximum semispan of all planforms listed in second group of geometry data ref. ar Reference aspect ratio computed from the reference planform area and wing span. mach number Mach number CL Lift coefficient under the flight condition / ( q reference area ) Angle of attack ( input data ) angle of attack

CL (wing only) That portion of desired lift coefficient developed by the planform with the maximum span when multiple planforms are specified. When one planform is specified, this is the desired lift coefficient CL alpha Lift-curve slope per radian, and per degree CM Pitching-moment coefficient about the reference point (cg) = Pitching-moment / ( q reference area ref. chord ) alpha at CL=0 Angle of attack at zero lift in degrees; nonzero only when twist and/or camber and/or elevator is specified

y cp Spanwise distance in fraction of semispan from root chord to center of pressure on the left wing panel CM/CL Longitudinal stability parameter based on a moment center about the reference point CM0 Pitching-moment coefficient at CL=0 For each spanwise station, the following data are presented; from the left tip towards the root: 2y/b Location of midpoint of each spanwise station in fraction of wing semispan. c/cav Ratio of local chord to average chord cl c/cav Distribution of span-load coefficients at the computed CL cl Section life coefficients = lift per unit length of span / ( q c) x location The X location of the local center of pressure for the resulting span load at cl , as a function of 2y/b cdi induced drag coefficient clmax maximum lift coefficient of complete configuration

Step 1: Set up input data:
See Appendix A.

Step 2: run vlm Sept 3: The interface options

Input the approximate panel number of semi-wing. Note: generally, this number ranges from 40 to 190 for single wing, and from 40 to 120 for wing-tail configuration. 100 Enter name of output file: example.out

Enter 0 for brief output. Usually use this option. Enter 1 for detail output. This option is rare used.

Step 4: Displaying panel arrangement

Under the MATLAB environment, run M-file "panelshow"

Step 5: Opening output file

See Appendix B

Verifications (1)
Result comparisons between VLM and Wing Design
VLM Lift coef. Cl 0.4923 -0.106 0.0111 Wing Design 0.4860 -0.107 0.0110 discrepancy 1.28 % 0.94 % 0.90 %

Pitch moment coef. Cm Induced drag coef. Cdi

Verifications (2)
Result comparisons between VLM and LinAir
case 1 twist=4 dihedral =3
VLM Cl Cm Cdi 0.6286 -0.5627 0.02023 LinAir 0.6186 -0.5602 0.01948 discrepancy 1.59 % 0.44 % 1.85 %

case 2 twist=0 dihedral=0

VLM 0.7652 -0.6375 0.02737 LinAir 0.7544 -0.6313 0.02644 discrepancy 1.41 % 0.97 % 3.4 %

A maximum of two planforms may be specified. A maximum of three segments with different twists and dihedrals may be used to define the wing of a configuration, but only one segment with one dihedral can be used to define the horizontal tail of the configuration. The maximum number of the panels on the left side is 200. when you input the panel number more than 200, an error information will display on monitor. The variation in local chord must be continuous from the tip chord to the root chord of each planform specified. The panel number in each chordwise row must be at least two.

You may use different panel number to run VLM, and make sure that the computed results reach the convergence. Some common rules of thumb may be used in selecting the panel number as indication in the interface when you run VLM.

Margason, R.J., and Lamar, J.E., Vortex-Lattice FORTRAN Program for Estimating Subsonic Aerodynamic Characteristics of Complex Planforms, NASA TN D-6142, Feb., 1971. Lamar, J.E.and Gloss, B.B., Subsonic Aerodynamic Characteristic of Interacting Lifting Surfaces with Separated Flow around Sharp Edges Predicted by a Vortex-Lattice Method, NASA TN D-7921, Sept., 1975.

Application to EPUAV Design

Tornado is a vortex lattice program developed by Tomas Melin at the Royal Institute of Technology. It was developed as a part of a masters thesis Tornado allows a user to define most types of aircraft designs The method is implemented in MATLAB (R12)

Wing features
Sweep. Dihedral. Twist. Taper. TE control surface Camber (NACA 4D)

Design features
Multiple wings Full 3D orientation Multiple control surfaces Cranked wings

Solver features
Explicit forces in Newtons. Stability derivatives with respect to:
Pitch Roll Yaw Angular rates

Control surface power derivatives. Parameter sweep.

3-D wing configuration

Cp Distribution

Local CL on Main Wing

Result Summary

Stability Analysis

An Application in My Research work

Jointed-Wing Stability Analysis

Jointed-Wing Stability Analysis

Jointed-Wing Stability Analysis


AVL (Athena Vortex Lattice)

Developed by Drs. H. Youngren and M. Drela, MIT Inviscid, VLM method code Rapid aircraft configuration analysis

VLM/2004 The VLM , TORNADO and AVL all have been used in the design of EPUAV projects at NUAA.