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PROPELLER FUNDAMENTALS

Lift
Lift is the aerodynamic force caused by air flowing over an aerofoil (Figure 1.1).
The aerofoil shape of an aircraft wing or propeller is designed to increase the velocity of the
airflow over its cambered surface, thereby decreasing pressure above the aerofoil. This
combination of pressure decrease above the aerofoil and a higher pressure below the aerofoil
produces a force upward. This force is termed lift, and with propellers this forms the basis of
blade element theory with a blade element being any randomly selected area of the blade
aerofoil.

Figure 1.1 Lift


Drag
Drag is a force opposing thrust, caused by the disruption or impact of airflow over, or onto an
aerofoil, (Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.2 Drag


Thrust
Thrust is a forward acting force. It is the reaction to the mass of air being accelerated rearwards,
(Figure 1.2). Thrust is felt on the blade face, this forms the basis of momentum theory for
propellers (Newtons 3rd law of motion).

THRUST

Figure 1.2 Thrust

Total Reaction
Total reaction of a blade is the resultant of two pairs of forces:

lift and drag

thrust and torque

By plotting the vectors for lift and drag, it is possible to derive the total reaction (Figure1.4A).
It is also possible to derive the total reaction by plotting the vectors for thrust and torque, (Figure
1.4B).
(Figure1.4C) depicts both pairs of vectors arriving at the same total reaction.

Figure 1.4 Blade Rotational Forces


An increase in rotational speed will increase theses forces equally.
Rotational speed is restricted to a point where the blade tip speed must remain below the speed
of sound.