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47th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting Including The New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition

5 - 8 January 2009, Orlando, Florida

AIAA 2009-1439

Design and Test of Small Scale Ducted-Prop Aerial Vehicle

Seong Wook Choi1 and Yu Shin Kim2
Korea Aerospace Research Institute, Daejeon, 305-333, Republic of Korea
Ji Suk Lee3
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, 305-701, Republic of Korea

A small scale ducted-prop aerial vehicle has been developed in this study. The
configuration design and aerodynamic analysis for ducts shrouding propeller have been
conducted using axisymmetric and three-dimensional flow calculations. The ground test for
the isolated prop and ducted-prop were carried out and the aerodynamic effects due to duct
were investigated. For the attitude control of ducted-prop vehicle, various concepts of
control in rotary and airplane mode have been proposed and implemented to the concept
vehicle which is composed of ducted-prop and center fuselage. The small scale ducted-prop
vehicle based on the conceptual design was fabricated and flight tests in rotary and partial
conversion mode have been conducted with the aid of manual control.




duct diameter
thrust coefficient
torque coefficient
power coefficient
area ratio of duct, solidity
Actuator Disk
Joint Striker Fighter
Personal Air Vehicle
Radio Control
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Vertical Take-off and Landing

I. Introduction

HE objective of this study is to develop a concept of ducted-prop aerial vehicle which will be applicable to
VTOL PAV or VTOL UAV. For the PAV application, the conventional helicopter in general, which has very
large and exposed rotor, has high noise and makes feel danger to ground crew or passenger. On the other hand, the
direct lift concept like the Harrior or VTOL JSF, even seems safer relatively because of no exposed rotating parts,
has lower flight efficiency such as range and endurance which is very important performance factor of PAV and
UAV. One of the efficient concepts of vehicle which can be implemented using existing state-of-the-art propulsion
system, as a thought of author, could be the concept of tiltrotor which has combined characteristics of helicopter and
airplane. However, the tiltrotor, which has also high rotational exposed rotor, may not appropriate to the PAV which
require quietness and safety. Therefore, the aircraft concept of ducted-prop, shrouding prop or fan to enhance noise
performance and safety as well as thrust efficiency, may be a proper concept for the VTOL PAV as shown in Figure
1. The ducted-prop can be considered as core technology for VTOL PAV which requires quietness, compactness,

Principal Researcher, Smart UAV Development Center,

Senior Researcher, Smart UAV Development Center
Graduate Student, Department of Aerospace Engineering

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Copyright 2009 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved.

and safety. Moreover, the aerodynamically well-designed duct can increase propulsive efficiency in significant
amount as summarized in Table 1.1
In this study, the conceptual study on ducted-prop aerial vehicle has been conducted. Various control concepts for
the ducted-prop aircraft has been proposed and each concept was implemented to the concept vehicle composed of
main ducts and basic control unit. In order to obtain optimal configuration of duct to be installed to the vehicle,
axisymmetric and three dimensional flow calculation were made for various geometry of ducts. Using the control
concept selected and the base configuration of duct, the small scale concept vehicle was fabricated and tested. Prior
to installing to the vehicle, the isolated prop and ducted-prop were installed in ground test rig and tested to
investigate the performance of prop itself and aerodynamic augmentation effect due to duct. In the ground test, the
flow pattern around duct was examined by visualization technique such as tufts. The rotary mode flight test for the
fabricated small scale ducted prop vehicle was conducted with the aid the RC manual control and the hover and
partial tilt flight were achieved with good flight characteristics.

Figure 1. Expected evolution of VTOL Aircraft

Table 1. Aerodynamic effect of ducts1

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II. Configuration Design

A. Configuration of Aircraft
As shown in Figure 2, various concepts of the ducted-prop aircraft have been proposed in the initial stage of
development. The basic concept of the aircraft is capable of vertical take-off and landing by tilting the two main
ducted-props in 90 degrees and of converting to the airplane mode by tilting the duct-props to 0 degrees. Moreover,
adopting a tri-cycle landing gear concept, the aircraft also can run-way take-off by tilting duct-props in moderate
angle of tilt (around 0 degrees). The main duct takes role of increasing thrust efficiency in hover mode and of major
lifting surfaces in airplane mode. The first concept of ducted-prop aircraft is composed of two main ducts only
which generate not only main thrust but also provides control forces for rotary mode and airplane mode. As
mentioned in the next section of control concept, this two ducts system shows severe unstable flight characteristics
in hover mode. In order to improve control capability in rotary mode, a small fan for the pitch control of aircraft was
devised and installed in the aft-part of aircraft as the middle concept in Figure 2. This aft-fan, like the horizontal
stabilizer of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, is in charge of control of pitch attitude in rotary mode. The aft-fan
concept, however, generates downward thrust for trimming aircraft in hover mode and makes decrease overall thrust
efficiency. To compensate the thrust decrease, alternative design is a canard configuration which the pitch control
fan is installed in forward part of fuselage as shown in right of Figure 2. The front fan shares the total thrust with the
two main ducted-props and increases overall thrust efficiency in hover mode.

Figure 2. Three concepts of Ducted-prop Aerial Vehicle

B. Configuration of Duct
Considering aerodynamic efficiency only, the main duct has to have different shape for each flight mode; rotary
and airplane mode. In the rotary mode including hover and forward flight mode with 90 degrees of tilt, the duct has
to have wide inlet like bell-mouth for absorbing massive air flow into the duct inlet and to have higher thrust
efficiency due to high suction pressure around lip of duct. The exit shape of duct also has wider exit area for
improving thrust efficiency in low speed flight mode. On the other hand, in the airplane mode of tilt angle around
zero degrees the inlet has to shrink its area to decrease intake drag and also has to shrink exit area to increase thrust
momentum to obtain higher speed in airplane mode. Because of these different requirements for duct shape in two
flight mode, variable shaping duct for adapting each flight mode required or duct shape has to be compromised for
each flight mode.
The baseline configuration of main duct prop, as shown in Figure 3, is generated using NACA0020 airfoil and
locates the prop at the maximum thickness of the airfoil. The main reason of using this relatively thick airfoil for the
duct is intent to get higher suction thrust around inlet lip and also to get higher thrust efficiency using wider area of
exit. From this baseline configuration of duct various shapes of duct have been generated for improving thrust
performance in hover mode.
The proprotor installed within duct is same configuration with the proprotor of Smart UAV2,3 which is a tiltrotor
aircraft. The main reason why using Smart UAV Proprotor for the ducted-prop is that a lot of performance data have
been accumulated for the proprotor of Smart UAV by analysis and test therefore the performance variation of
proprotor due to duct can be evaluated with ease.

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The chord of duct was set to 60% of prop radius and the nacelle located in center region is supported by cross
type strut which not only has the primary role of supporting structure between duct and nacelle but also takes role of
lifting and control surfaces in rotary and airplane mode.

Figure 3. Basic configuration of Ducted-prop

C. Control Concept
The main ducted-props installed on both sides of fuselage are capable of tilting from 90 degrees of hover mode to
0 degrees of airplane mode by tilting mechanism as shown in Figure 4 and the control surfaces have to be changed
their functions with the variation of tilt. The control concept can be explained for rotary mode and for airplane mode
separately as follows.
Table 2. Various control concepts in rotary mode

Rotary Mode
For the control of ducted-prop aircraft in rotary mode, various control concepts can be applied as Table 2 or
several concepts can be combined. Even though one of well-proven control concepts for the rotary mode is using
swashplate on rotor hub like a helicopter, since this concept generally requires relative higher cost for manufacturing
due to structural complexity, the swashplate was decided to exclude for the ducted-prop aircraft. In a ducted-prop
aircraft, the attitude of aircraft can be controlled effectively with the movement of duct or vanes installed within duct.
Of these concepts, the attitude control by movement of duct may cause some control uncertainty such as the delay or
coupling of action. Specially, in a case of pitch attitude control using duct tilted by actuator connected to aircraft
frame, a sort of control divergence may occur by reaction of actuator movement to airframe. Moreover, the direct
control of the large and heavy duct requires large power of actuator and cause the increase of cost and weight of
aircraft. The indirect control of duct using variable vanes installed under the strut is to tilt the duct which can be
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freely swung by the aerodynamic forces of vanes. This concept, even simpler and requires less actuator power than
the direct control concept, also may cause control problem similar to the direct control of duct due to delay of action
of duct. The simplest concept for the duct control is using variable vane for the attitude control of roll and pitch.
However, this method also requires excessive cares for locating the vane and center of gravity of aircraft. Through a
lot of tests for the various control concepts described above, the most robust way of pitch control of aircraft was
using another control fan installed in front or aft of aircraft fuselage as shown in the center and the right concept of
Figure 2. This pitch control fan requires collective control of blade pitch in order to change the direction and the
amount of thrust for the accurate control of pitch attitude. In hover mode, the roll is controlled by thrust control of
two main ducts and the yaw is controlled by the aerodynamic action of vanes under struts of ducts.

Figure 4. Center section of the small scale Ducted-prop Aerial Vehicle

Airplane Mode
In airplane mode the ducted-prop is tilted to 0 degrees and takes similar configuration with a conventional type
aircraft and the control concept is also very similar to the fixed wing type aircraft. In other words, the pitch attitude
can be controlled by elevator installed in horizontal stabilizer, the roll attitude by differential control of vanes
installed in the strut of duct like aileron, and the yaw can be controlled by the rudder of vertical stabilizer or
differential thrust control of props of ducted-prop. From a point of view of weight and cost, a more effective way of
yaw control may be the control by differential thrust which already used to control of roll attitude in rotary mode.
Conversion Mode
During the conversion from the rotary mode to airplane mode through tilting of ducted-prop, the role of control
surfaces also have to be changed. While the differential thrust control of main ducted-prop is used for roll control in
rotary mode, this differential thrust is used for yaw control in airplane mode. Therefore, in conversion mode these
two controls have to be changed with appropriate manner using a flight control computer. The yaw vanes used for
the yaw control in rotary mode has to be changed its role to roll vanes like aileron in airplane mode using proper
scheduling the role of those control surfaces. Consequently, the attitude control of aircraft can be performed by the
change and mixing of role of control surfaces using the flight control computer.

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III. Numerical Flow Analysis and Design

A. Numerical Method
In this study, aerodynamic characteristics of ducted-prop have been investigated through numerical flow
calculation around duct. Axisymmetric flow has been calculated for various shapes of two-dimensional ducts and
aerodynamic effects due to variation of duct shape have been evaluated. The flow calculations have been conducted
for hover and airplane mode, and prop was modeled using simple actuator disk theory. The axisymmetric flow
calculation plays a major role in the design of duct shape because of rapid grid generation and short calculation time.
For the duct in the flow of angle of attack or tilt, three dimensional flow calculations have been conducted using
three dimensional grid simply generated by revolving two-dimensional grid used in axisymmetric calculation. The
lifting capability of duct in airplane mode was analyzed through the three dimensional calculation of duct. The flow
around fuselage, stabilizer, and struts were calculated.
The flow calculations for analyzing aerodynamic characteristics and for design of duct shape have been conducted
for axisymmetric configuration of duct. The simple actuator disk model was applied for prop disk in duct as
following equation.

AD =

, where p =

For the flow calculation, the compressible turbulent Navier-Stokes equations have been used and the oneequation Sparat-Allmaras turbulent model was applied.
B. Geometry and Grid
The flow around axisymmetric duct has been calculated for four types of duct as categorized in Table 3. The
Base configuration is a baseline duct composed of NACA0020 airfoil. The Circular configuration is a modified
geometry which substitutes front section of NACA0020 airfoil with circular section to examine aerodynamic effect
of nose part of duct. The Wide configuration is enlarged intake shape of baseline duct. The configuration Hole is
a modified duct with small cavity which allows penetration of prop tip to inner region of duct. This small cavity
named as separation holder which has effect of reducing gap between duct and prop which causes separation in the
downstream of prop location.
Table 3. Various configurations of duct

Axisymmetric grid around duct was generated in C-type wrapping around duct as shown in Figure 5 and the
three dimensional duct grid was generated by revolving the axisymmetric grid around its center axis as shown in
Figure 6. For the grid system around aft-fan type fuselage, an overset grid composed two independent grids of
fuselage and aft-fan was generated as shown in Figure 7.

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Figure 5. Axisymmetric grid around duct (Partial View)

Figure 6. Three dimensional grid around base duct

Figure 7. Grids around aft-fan type fuselage

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C. Flow Analysis
Axisymmetric Duct Flow Calculation
The flow calculations around axisymmetric ducts have been conducted for hover mode by applying actuator disk
model for prop. Figure 8 shows flow patterns of four kinds of duct. For the base model composed of NACA0020
airfoil, a significant amount of flow separation behind the tip of prop incurred due to the gap between prop and duct.
The flow separation within duct decrease thrust efficiency of duct. The circular inlet makes much more separation
behind prop and shows the length of nose part of duct is an important factor for the efficiency of duct. The wide inlet,
even though relatively decrease, still have large region of separation behind prop. From those three cases of duct
calculations, the gap between prop and duct plays an important role in flow characteristics of duct. In order words,
the smaller gap makes the better flow characteristics within duct. The concept of separation holder, as shown in
lower right part of Figure 8, was devised to suppress the massive separation behind the prop. The separation holder
is like a flow cavity which holds flow separation within the cavity and makes decrease the massive flow separation
downstream of prop. The flow pattern of Hole geometry in Figure 8 shows significant decrease of flow separation
within duct.
Figure 9 shows thrust increments due to various shape of duct and gap between prop and duct. The thrust
coefficient of duct was nondimensionalized with tip speed of prop and the base thrust coefficient was set to 0.0116.
The case of highest thrust increase is base configuration with unrealistic gap between duct and prop is zero. The
smallest thrust increase is the circular nose duct which cause sudden flow distortion around inlet and produce
significant separation downstream of prop. Of the hole configurations with realistic gap, the modified duct geometry
with hole4 shows best thrust efficiency and the change of flow pattern is shown in Figure 10.

Figure 8. Flow pattern of various duct configurations

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Figure 9. Thrust augmentation due to various duct configurations

Base (1.0%)

Figure 10.

Base1 + hole4 (0.7%)

Change of flow pattern due to change of duct geometry and insertion of separation holder

Three-dimensional Duct Flow Calculation

The flow calculation around three-dimensional duct has been conducted for investigating the aerodynamic
characteristics of duct in finite angle of attack or tilt angle. The calculation of duct with angle of attack is very
meaningful work because most of aircraft lift has to be provided by duct in airplane mode. The flow calculations
around duct have been performed for two cases; the first is the duct without prop and the second is the duct with
actuator disk model to simulate prop. Flow speed in calculation was set to Mach number 0.1 and the variation of
angle of attack was from 0 to 90 degrees. Figure 11 shows stream line on symmetric plane and surface pressure
coefficient distribution of duct with actuator disk model for angle of attack 0, 30, 60, and 90 degrees.

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Figure 11.

Flow pattern around the three dimensional duct with angle of attacks

Three-dimensional Wing Flow Calculation

The main purpose of flow calculation of the wing is to investigate the aerodynamic characteristics of the strut
inside duct. The duct can be equivalent to wing with span of duct diameter and chord of duct. Through the
calculation of the flow around the equivalent wing and comparison with duct, the aerodynamic efficiency of duct
can be evaluated relative to conventional type wing. Like the case of duct, the flow calculation around the equivalent
wing has been conducted for the flow Mach number 0.1 and the angle of attack was changed from 0 to 90 degrees.
Figure 12 shows stream line on symmetric plane and surface pressure coefficient distribution of wing for angle of
attack 0, 30, 60, and 90 degrees. The comparisons for major aerodynamic coefficient between the equivalent wing
and three-dimensional duct are shown in Figure 13.

Figure 12.

Flow pattern around the equivalent wing for angle of attacks

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Figure 13.

Aerodynamic coefficients variations for ducts and wing

Flow Calculation Around Fuselage with Aft-fan

The aerodynamic characteristics of fuselage with aft-fan have been analyzed using overset grid method
combining fuselage and aft-fan grid generated independently. The main purpose of the calculation is to evaluate the
aerodynamic characteristics of aft-fan. The drag of aft-fan was found to the source of significant drag rise of aircraft
with the original shape as shown in Figure 14 and needs to be modified the shape of duct to get low drag aft-fan.

Figure 14. Surface pressure contour around fuselage with aft-fan

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IV. Development of Small Scale Vehicle

A. System Specification
A small scale ducted-prop vehicle has been developed for the verification of designed ducted-prop and to obtain
the basic flying characteristics of tilt-duct aircraft. The vehicle is about 20% scale of overall length and has about
14% scale of proprotor of Smart UAV3 as listed in Table 4. The scaled vehicle has used for performance test for
various configuration of duct, implementation and test of various control concept devised, and investigation of
flying characteristics of vehicle in rotary and airplane mode.
Table 4. Basic specification of scale vehicle

B. Ground Test of Ducted Prop

The ground test for base configuration ducted-prop has been carried out prior to the fabrication of the scaled
vehicle. As shown in Figure 15, the test has been conducted for a prop and a ducted-prop respectively and the
aerodynamic effect of duct has been investigated. In this test, the prop was derived by electric brushless motor used
in scaled vehicle. Various performances such as thrust, torque, downwash, rpm, voltage, and current of drive power
were measured in the ground test. The aerodynamic performance data obtained in this test have been compared with
the calculated data obtained from performance analysis code4 of proprotor of Smart UAV as shown in Figure 16.
Flow behavior around ducted-prop was also examined using tuft and smoke visualization techniques as shown in
right of Figure 15.

Figure 15. Ground test for prop and ducted-prop

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Figure 16. Ground test for prop and ducted-prop

C. Flight Test of Small Scale Vehicle
Even though various control concepts for pitch attitude of vehicle have been tried using two main ducted-prop
only, it could not works as adequate control means for pitch control and even caused uncontrollability. From the test
of those various control methods, the pitch control using pitch control fan which can be installed aft or front side of
fuselage is relatively robust way of control for pitch attitude. With the idea of pitch control fan, the concept ductedprop vehicle installing aft-fan was fabricated and flight tested as shown in Figure 17. The concept vehicle is capable
of tilting the main ducted-prop from 90 to 0 degrees in flight and equipped with three single axis gyros for stability
augmentation of pitch, roll, and yaw attitude respectively. With the aid of gyros and by radio control, the concept
vehicle could take-off vertically, forward flight in rotary mode, and converted to tilt angle about 60 degrees with
very stable behavior. From the success of the stable flight of the concept vehicle, a more complete shape of scaled
vehicle of ducted-prop with aft-fan has been fabricated as shown in Figure 18 and tested in a similar way.

Figure 17. Fight of the small scale concept ducted-prop vehicle (tilt 90 60)

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Figure 18. The first prototype of small scale Ducted-prop vehicle with aft-fan

V. Conclusion
A conceptual study on the configuration of ducted-prop vehicle aiming for the Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) or
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has been conducted and several important results were obtained.
- The axisymmetric duct flow calculation technique with actuator disk model for simulating prop enables rapid
calculation around various shapes of duct and contributes to make technical basis for obtaining optimal shape of
duct adequate for both hover and airplane mode. From the computational tests on various shape of ducted-prop,
the thrust due to duct can be augmented over 20% of unshrouded prop and much more thrust efficiency can be
achieved by further careful design of duct shape.
- Through the ground test with flow visualization technique on ducted-prop, the massive separation downstream of
prop location was identified as similar pattern obtained from the computational result. The separation inside of
duct can be decreased significantly by adopting separation holder devised in this study and makes great role to
increase overall thrust efficiency of ducted-prop in hover mode.
- The duct in airplane mode, through flow computation, generate sufficient lift for airplane mode flight and proved
to be an appropriate means as the lifting surface like fixed wing of conventional airplane.
- A small scale ducted-prop vehicle was fabricated and used for the aerial platform for test various control concepts
as well as for various shapes of duct. Of the control concepts, the ducted-prop with pitch control fan provide robust
controllability for pitch attitude and the first prototype of scaled vehicle was decide to select this concept. With the
aid of stability augmentation system, the flight of the prototype vehicle was made with good stability up to 60
degrees of tilt by manual RC method.
- In near future, like a fixed-wing aircraft, the run way take-off with the tilt around 0 degrees will be performed and
tilt the duct up to about 30 degrees in flight. If this airplane mode flight will be acceptable, the next flight scenario
will be turn to the full conversion from tilt 0 to 90 degrees with the aid of flight control computer.

This research was performed for Basic Research Program funded by the KRCF (Korea Research Council of
Fundamental Science and Technology) and for Smart UAV Development Program funded by the MKE (Ministry of
Knowledge and Economy) of Korea. The author specially thanks to the SungWoo Engineering who fabricated the
small scale ducted-prop vehicle and conducted flight test successfully.


Kohlman,D. L., Introduction to V/STOL Airplanes, Iowa State Univ. Press / AMES.
Choi, S. W, et al., Aerodynamic Development of the Smart UAV, UKC 2006, Teaneck NJ, August 2006.
Choi, S. W. and Kim, J. M., Aerodynamic Design of the Smart UAV Proprotor, Heli-Japan 2006, Nagoya Japan, November
Choi, S. W., Koo, S. and Kim, J. M., Performance Analysis of the 40% Scaled Tiltrotor UAV, AHS-Korea 2007, Seoul
Korea, October 2007.

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