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Symposium on Applied Aerodynamics and Design of Aerospace Vehicle (SAROD 2009)

December 10-12, 2009, Bangalore, India

Conceptual Design and Analysis of Airframe for Fixed Wing MAV

Shashank Mishra* G. Ramesh+, Sajeer Ahmed+
(, (,

National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR), Bangalore, India


This paper presents the design and development of an airframe for a fixed wing Micro Air Vehicle that has a maximum
linear dimension restricted to 300 mm. The preliminary estimate of the weight is based on the commercially available
components including the autopilot and payload. Based on the wing loading and power loading data, a flying wing
configuration has been chosen as the most optimum solution for the airframe. Numerical codes X-Foil and XFLR5
available as a freeware were used to analyze and optimize the airfoil and planform in terms of static stability and
aerodynamic efficiency. The Eppler 61 was chosen as seed airfoil for optimization as it provided the highest aerodynamic
efficiency in low Reynolds number flow regime. However, the higher pitching moment values and its oscillatory nature
necessitated the modification of the airfoil geometry to obtain a better longitudinal stability. The new airfoil thus
designed (SM-4308) using the seed airfoil is found to provide a better stability at a marginal loss of aerodynamic
efficiency. The planform optimization carried out using the numerical codes and the cropped delta planform with the
above airfoil showed to provide the optimum aerodynamic coefficients. Eigen mode analysis carried out for lateral and
directional stability using Athena Vortice Lattice method (AVL) showed the stability in Dutch roll and Spiral mode. The
prototype MAV with the designed wing flown in fully autonomous mode is found to perform well against high wind gusts
(up to 13m/s) and has a typical endurance of 20 minutes. The Designed MAV is named as Golden Hawk.

Key words: MAV, Low Reynolds Number, VLM and 3-D Panels, Longitudinal stability, Lateral-Directional stability.
NOMENCLATURE Interest in Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) systems
Cd = Sectional drag coefficient (2D-Airfoil) arises from both military application and scientific
Cl = Sectional lift coefficient (2D- Airfoil) intrigue [1]. As relatively an emerging field it provides
CD = Drag coefficient (3D-Wing) great opportunities and challenges in many disciplines
CL = Lift coefficient (3D- wing) of aeronautical engineering. The small size and weight
Cdmin = Minimum drag Coefficient and the relatively high atmospheric gusts under which
CLmax = Maximum lift coefficient the vehicle need to fly in fully autonomous mode make
CLmin = Minimum lift Coefficient the development of MAVs a technological challenge.
The development of MAV is a highly multi
Cm = Pitching moment coefficient disciplinary and a highly technology driven activity. In
Cmo = Zero Angle Pitching moment coefficient the area of airframe design the aerodynamics plays an
CmC = pitching moment about the quarter-chord important role. Due to the limited size and low flying
4 velocity, it operates at significantly lower Reynolds
CLα = Lift-Curve slope number ranging between 50,000 – 200,000 based on
L/D = Lift-to-Drag Ratio the mean aerodynamic chord (MAC) and cruise
CG = Center of Gravity velocity. Wings of such low aspect ratios exhibit
unique aerodynamic properties such as high stall-
t/c = Thickness to Chord Ratio
angles of attack and nonlinear lift versus angle of
α = Angle Of Attack attack curves. Due to low Reynolds number, complex
flow phenomena such as laminar separation bubbles,
Project Engineer. laminar to turbulent transition and bubble bursting may
Scientist, Experimental Aerodynamics arise. The aerodynamic characteristics of the wing and
Division other components in turn affect the static, dynamic and
© Shashank Mishra, G. Ramesh, Sajeer Ahmed aero elastic stability of the entire vehicle. The highly
SAROD 2009 three-dimensional low Reynolds number flows and
Published in 2009 by Macmillan India Ltd. lack of experimental database to understand the flow
around the wing body requires fundamental research of
the phenomena.

2 Shashank Mishra, G. Ramesh, Sajeer Ahmed

Many of the researchers and designers use the

aero prediction codes such as XFOIL [2] and AVL [3]
for the design and development of airfoil, wing, and
airframes for the low Reynolds number flow regimes
as the codes are being constantly improved. The
behavior of the flow around the wing body can be
predicted using aero-prediction code based on 3-D
Panel method called XFLR5 [2]. It is an open source
code modified by many developers and is an excellent
tool for the preliminary aerodynamic analysis of the
airframe with the selected airfoil. It uses two different
methods namely: Vortex Lattice method and 3D Panel
method which gives reasonably good results in the
Low Reynolds number regime.AVL [3] is also an open
source vortex lattice code to analyze the Longitudinal
and Lateral-directional stability characteristics of the Figure 1 Schematic Outline of Design Methodology
airframe in the preliminary design stages. The above
free wares have been used in the design and analysis of Aerodynamic Force models
the airframe to meet the mission performance of a
Fixed Wing Micro Air Vehicle. The wing, vertical tails, control surfaces and the
The aim of the present work is to develop propeller are the main subsystems that are subjected to
MAVs of 300 mm span with about 30 minutes the aerodynamic forces in any symmetrical or
endurance and to operate in a fully autonomous mode. asymmetrical flight condition. The efficiency of the
This work addresses the development of model is defined by the aerodynamic forces acting on
aerodynamically efficient and stable airframe that meet the wing which will be mainly affected by the propeller
the mission requirement. The prototype is populated slipstream in any flight condition. The effect of
with the commercially available off the shelf propeller slipstream is an ongoing research topic as it
components (COTS) including the autopilot and flown has a significant influence on the wing drag and lift,
in Radio Control (R/C) and autonomous mode. Future which is out of scope of this paper. The aerodynamic
work involves wind tunnel validation of aero force model consists of efficient airfoil and planform
predictions and detailed structural analysis to get the with weight estimation of the commercially off the
natural frequency, strength and weight optimization. shelf components used in the models to find the
The fabrication of the final flight model will be with aerodynamic forces acting on the wing. Numerical
high strength, light weight material. methods, such as 3-D panel method and vortex lattice
methods are used to investigate the various
AIRFRAME DESIGN aerodynamic forces acting on the wing.

2.1 Design Methodology Airfoil Selection

The schematic outline of the methodology of Selection of airfoil for the MAV is the crucial
the design process for the fixed wing micro air vehicle task as the flying wing design has to provide inherent
is shown in Figure 1. stability as there is no conventional tail that balances
the moment. The factors for the selection of airfoil
The methodology has three levels; basic level include high aerodynamic efficiency, increased Clmax,
consists of aerodynamic force models and profile low Cdmin, higher stall angle, negative and near zero
selection, the second level consists of design constant pitching moment etc [4 and 5]. The airfoil
optimization and third level consists of flight testing of should have minimum thickness and moderate camber.
the prototype. The tests can be used as a feedback Various low Reynolds number airfoils such as Eppler
module for the design optimization. 61, MH45, NACA 4415, S4083, Eppler184 and the
Aerodynamic Force Models
Weight Airfoil Planform Control Surface S5020 airfoil were analyzed and aerodynamic
Estimation Selection Selection Sizing characteristics has been obtained through the XFLR5.
Analysis was carried out under the viscid mode at
Reynolds number of 160000 corresponds to cruise
velocity of 11m/s for an AOA ranging from -5o to 3o
and aerodynamic characteristics are plotted in Figure 2.
Design Optimization
Stability Analysis Wind Tunnel Testing Structural /CFD

Test Environments
Endurance Testing Prototype / Autonomous Flight Testing
Symposium on Applied Aerodynamics and Design of Aerospace Vehicle (SAROD 2009)
December 10-12, 2009, Bangalore, India

As seen from the above plots though the Eppler 61

Coefficicent oflift (Cl)

airfoil provides a high L/D the undesirable oscillation
1.2 in the pitching moment and higher negative value
necessitates the modification and tweaking of this
0.8 airfoil to achieve better performance. Eppler 61 is
Eppler 184
Eppler 61 modified (leading edge radius, the camber, thickness
0.4 NACA 4415
Selig 4083
Selig 5020
ratio and its position) using inverse design method in
MH 45 XFLR5 to obtain the new airfoil named SM-4308 is
-4 0 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32
Angle of Attack
shown in Figure 3. The airfoil has nearly 0.04c
-0.4 (0.0369c) camber at 0.28c (0.30c) with maximum
thickness of 0.0784c (0.08c), so we name the airfoil as
(a) Coefficient of Lift Vs angle of Attack SM-4308.

Angle of Attack
-8 -4 00 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32

-0.05 SM-4308 Airfoil

Figure 3 Modified Airfoil for better stability


-0.15 This new airfoil has camber reduced nearly by 50%

Eppler 184
Eppler 61
-0.2 NACA 4415
Selig 4083 that improved CmC . The new modified airfoil SM-
Selig 5020 4
-0.25 MH 45
4308 has been found to significantly improve the stall
(b) Pitching Moment Coefficient Vs Angle of angle and longitudinal stability compared to the seed
Attack airfoil as shown in Figure 4. The aerodynamic
characteristics of the analyzed airfoils can be seen in
Table 1.

Coefficient ofLift (Cl)

Eppler 184 1.2
0.5 Eppler 61
NACA 4415 1
Selig 4083
Selig 5020 0.8
MH 45
0 0.6
-0.1 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4
Cd 0.4 Eppler 61
-4 0 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32
(c) Drag Polar Curve -0.2 Angle of Attack
Eppler 184
80 Eppler 61
NACA 4415 (a) Coefficient of Lift Vs angle of Attack
Selig 4083

60 Selig 5020
MH 45
40 Angle of Attack
0 10 20 30
-4 00 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32
Angle of Attack -0.1

Eppler 61
-0.15 SM-4308
(d) Lift-to-Drag Ratio Vs Angle of Attack
Figure 2 Aerodynamic Data of Different
Low Reynolds Number Airfoils
(b) Pitching Moment Coefficient Vs Angle of
4 Shashank Mishra, G. Ramesh, Sajeer Ahmed

Aerodynamic Characteristics of Low Reynolds Number Airfoils

Airfoil Camber (%) t/c (%) Cd0 Cm,c/4 (Cl/Cd )max Clmax
Eppler 61 6.69 5.67 0.02381 -0.1897 87 1.5
S4083 3.45 8.00 0.00912 -0.0896 67.22 1.221
Eppler 184 1.20 8.32 0.01102 -0.0093 36.79 0.849
S5020 2.62 8.40 0.0114 -0.007 59.67 1.19
NACA 4415 4.01 14.99 0.0134 -0.107 63.69 1.401
MH45 1.71 9.84 0.0.1102 -0.0093 53.48 1.114
SM-4308 3.69 7.84 0.02432 -0.0078 56.67 1.26

Geometric Properties of Designed MAV wing

Eppler 61
SM- 4308
Span 300mm
20 Area 0.06m2
Aspect Ratio(AR) 1.5
-4 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 Mean Aerodynamic 201.67mm
Angle of Attack
chord (MAC)
Root Chord 240mm
Tip Chord 140mm
(c) Lift to Drag Ratio Vs Angle of Attack Sweep Angle 20o
C.G Location 45mm from LE*
Figure 4 Comparison of SM4308 airfoil Aerodynamic Centre 60mm from LE
with Eppler 61 Airfoil Winglet/Fin area 0.01m2
Height of winglets 60mm
Planform Selection is added to counter the moment caused by propulsion
system. NACA0006 airfoil is used in fin/tail because of
The main design consideration for the MAV symmetry and thickness of the airfoil. The geometric
is the weight and dimension i.e. the chord and span of properties are tabulated in Table 2
the wing. The calculations were performed for different
aspect ratio, velocity, lifts coefficient, etc., and
optimized result was chosen as the design requirement
specification of the MAV. Increasing the aspect ratio
could lead to a very low wing area permitting the MAV
to carry only less weight, so the aspect ratio was varied
between 1 and 1.5. The various planform like
Zimmerman, Inverse Zimmerman, Modified 3-Circle, *LE = Leading Edge of the Wing
Delta Planforms were analyzed to choose optimally
best planform for the Golden Hawk (GH). The cropped 1.2 Modeling and Meshing of wing in XFLR5
delta planform was selected due to high aerodynamic
efficiency and moderate stall [6]. Single vertical fin/tail
Symposium on Applied Aerodynamics and Design of Aerospace Vehicle (SAROD 2009)
December 10-12, 2009, Bangalore, India

The designed MAV is modeled in XFLR5

with the help of 3-D panel method. In 3-D panel
method wing is defined by a set of panels and each
panels is defined by its length, root and tip chord,
leading edge offset at root and tip, mesh for VLM/3-D
Panels analysis. The 1000 numbers of VLM Panels and
2000 numbers of 3D Panels can be modeled in XFLR5.
The spanwise length of a Panel should be at least equal
to the minimum length of the VLM elements on other
panels which can be seen in the Figure 5 Figure 6 Mesh disposition on the MAV

VLM Panels An initial estimate of the aerodynamic

characteristics of the Golden Hawk has been obtained
through the XFLR5. The computation is done with the
help of 3-D panel method. The 3-D panel method is
more accurate for low Reynolds number and it takes
into an account of wing thickness for analysis. 3D
Control points in 3-D Panels Panel Method is to model the perturbation generated by
the wing by a sum of vortex distributed over the wing's
Horseshoe Vortex
top and bottom surfaces. The strength of the vortex is
Figure 5 VLM AND 3-D Panels Arrangement calculated to meet the appropriate boundary conditions
which can be Neumann or Dirichlet type. In Neumann
for Wing type of boundary condition, velocity's component
The Golden Hawk MAV is modeled in normal to the surface must be zero. In the Dirichlet
XFLR5 with the help of 3-D panel method which case the velocity's potential on the panel's inside
include VLM mesh also. The airframe has been surface is zero, so that the total potential inside the
modeled by giving the hypothetical sections in X and body is equal to the free stream velocity's potential.
Y direction respectively. The spacing between the The 3-D Panel analysis carried out at 11m/s as
hypothetical sections is filled by 3-D panels and VLM a typical cruise condition of the vehicle for an angle of
panels as shown in Figure 6. The spacing between the attack ranging from -5 to 50 degrees. The static
panels can be defined either linearly or using a longitudinal stability is much important to freeze the
sinusoidal function. The cosine function is generally airfoils and planform. The curve shows the cropped
used to resolve the flow accurately at all the desirable delta planform with seed airfoil E61 having the highest
points by increasing the density of mesh at the root, tip, negative pitching moment and constant about the C.G
leading and trailing edge. As panel distribution is but this is not much desirable to control the MAV. The
consistent with the wing geometry so the density of the pitching moment for the planform with SM-4308
mesh can be increased at the geometrical breakdown shows the desirable result which gives the controllable
points and at the root and tip of the wings. The wing is flight of Golden Hawk. Golden Hawk shows the high
"meshed" into a number of panels distributed over the lift-to-drag ratio close to 10 at an optimal angle of
span and the chord of the planform, and a vortex is attack of 8o can be seen in Figure 7. The aerodynamic
associated to each panel. The MAV wing is meshed characteristics of the golden hawk are tabulated in
with VLM panels as well as 3-D panels with the help Table 4.
of XFLR5. The mesh disposition on the designed
MAV can be seen in Figure 6. The details of the VLM 1.2
Coefficient oflift (CL)

panels and 3-D panel are given in the Table 3.

Table 3
Distribution of VLM Panels and 3-D panels over
the MAV Wing

Distribution VLM Panel 3-D Panel GH _Eppler 61 airfoil

GH_SM-4308 Airfoil
Wing 976 1968 -10
0 10 20 30 40 50
Vertical fin/tail 66 y 144
Angle of Atttack

x Section 1

3-D panels and VLM

panels are distributed
in cosine function to
resolve the flow
accurately in X and Y
6 Shashank Mishra, G. Ramesh, Sajeer Ahmed

(a) Coefficient of Lift Vs angle of Attack The climb angle and

rate of climb calculated
Angle of attack using empirical
0 4 8 12 16 20 24 formulae based on the take-off velocity, thrust
available, power required at the take off and all-up
weight of the vehicle.

-0.15 GH_Eppler 61 Airfoil 2.4 Numerical Flow visualization using XFLR5

GH_ SM-4308 Airfoil
Flow field and pressure distribution over the
-0.25 MAV wing is numerically visualized using XFLR5
(b) that uses 3-D panel method. The range of the angle of
Pitching Moment Coefficient Vs Angle of attack was varied from -5 to 30 degree. The surface
Attack pressure distribution, streamlines and tip vortices are
obtained. It was found that the results are in general
10 GH_Eppler 61 agreement with our earlier observations. The
GH_ SM-4308 Airfoil
8 streamlines and surface pressure distribution showed
attached flow for a large range of angle of attack and

the tip vortices influence is also low for the angle of
4 attacks up to 10 degree. The streamline distribution
over the wing creates the weak trailing edge vortices
which create less drag over the operating range of
00 10 20 30 40 50 angle of attack which is shown in the Figure 8.
Angle of attack

(c) Lift-to-Drag Ratio Vs Angle of Attack

Coefficient Of Lift (CL)

GH_SM-4308 Airfoil
GH_Eppler 61 Airfoil
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8
Coefficient of Drag (CD)
(a) Pressure Distribution at α = 50
(d) Drag polar Curve

Figure 7 Comparison of aerodynamics

performance of cropped delta planform

Table 4
Aerodynamic Characteristics of Designed MAV
CLmax 1.34
CDmin 0.133
Cmo -0.007
(b) Vorticity distribution at α = 50
Stall angle 30o
(CL/CD)max 9.075
CLα 0.006 / deg
(CL /CD)max 7.40
Cruise Angle 8o
Rate of climb 2.5 m/s
Angle of climb 15o
Symposium on Applied Aerodynamics and Design of Aerospace Vehicle (SAROD 2009)
December 10-12, 2009, Bangalore, India

3. Prototype fabrication and Flight trials

A prototype of the Golden Hawk (Figure 10)
was made using the light weight foam and the control
surfaces are made of balsa wood. The structural weight
of the airframe is about 65 grams. A 25 watt brushless
DC motor along with APC 7 x 5, 2 bladed propellers
was used in tractor mode. A Li-Po battery (1350mAh,
(c) Streamline distribution at α = 50
11.1 V, 3 cells) is placed ahead of the wing to have a
good static margin. Two servos fixed on the top surface
Figure 8 Flow Visualization with the help
were used for the deflecting the elevons. The all up
of XFLR5
weight of the MAV is found to be 245 grams. The
MAV was flown in R/C mode and is found to be
2.5. Dynamic Stability Analysis using AVL controllable and stable. The subsequent flight in
Dynamic stability analysis is performed autonomous mode using commercial autopilot
to analyze the controllability and maneuverability of exhibited the stability and endurance of the MAV. The
the micro air vehicle. The longitudinal and lateral initial tests provided endurance of just over 20 minutes
modes are analyzed with the help of Athena Vortice and in a gust wind as high as 13m/s.
Lattice (AVL) method [3]. The longitudinal modes are
studied using the general equation of motion around
the cruise condition with the help of Athena Vortices
Lattice method. The dynamic modes are computed for
30cm Golden Hawk MAV with mass of 245grams. The
Eigen mode analysis is done on different combinations
of wing with vertical tail and winglets. The golden
hawk with vertical tail shows an impressive result in
Lateral-Directional mode. The Eigen mode analysis
shows that the Dutch roll and spiral are stable
throughout the operating range. The Dutch roll mode
has a slow oscillation. The damping factors depend on Figure 10 Prototype used for R/C and Autonomous
the fins area. The short period mode and roll mode are flight
dampened very fast. They are comparatively less 4. Conclusions and Future work
sensitive to operating CL of 0.5 it can be seen in Table
5. Roll mode is too far in left plane which roll mode is An airframe with a flying wing configuration
highly stable for the Golden Hawk. The Phugoid mode was designed and developed for the micro air vehicle.
is slow damped mode. The damping factor is increased A new airfoil designed using inverse method from a
if the CD/CL ratio is increased but this ratio is imposed numerical code using the Eppler 61 as the seed airfoil.
by the endurance optimization, here is also an The modified airfoil is found to provide inherent
influence of the propulsion system. The detailed longitudinal stability thereby reducing the load on
analysis is given in reference [6]. The various modes of control surfaces. The modified airfoil with cropped
lateral-directional stability for the wing with single delta planform analyzed using AVL code is found to
vertical tail are tabulated in Table 5. give a good stability against Dutch roll and Spiral
mode. The numerical flow visualization carried out
Table 5 Stability Modes of Wing with Vertical Tail using XFLR5 exhibited that the influence of tip
vortices to be moderate in the operational range of the
Eigen Value Damping Frequency flight of MAV. A prototype of the MAV was made and
(rad/s) flown in both R/C and autonomous mode and is found
-7.61±12.5i 0.521 14.6 to perform well both in terms of endurance and
stability under high cross winds. Further improvements
Phugoid -0.212±1.05i 0.197 1.07
Roll -24.4 1 24.4 are expected with the detailed wind tunnel validation
Spiral -0.351±13.1i 0.0267 13.1 studies and optimized component placement. It is
Dutch roll -0.0128 1 0.0128 proposed to include the effect of fuselage and propeller
in the future studies planned.

8 Shashank Mishra, G. Ramesh, Sajeer Ahmed

[1] Grasmeyer, J.M and Keennon, “Development of

Black Widow Micro Air Vehicle”, AIAA paper
[2] XFLR5 –
[3] AVL -
[4] Abdulrahim, M., Cocquyt, J. B., “Development of

Mission-Capable Flexible-Wing Micro Air

Vehicles”, 53rd Southeastern Regional Student
Conference 4–5April 2002, Alabama.
[5]Mueller T.J., “Fixed and Flapping Wing
Aerodynamics for Micro Air Vehicle,
Applications”, AIAA, Virginia, 2001.
[6]Shashank Mishra, G. Ramesh “Design and
Development of Airframe for Fixed Wing
Micro Air Vehicle- GOLDEN HAWK”, NAL PD

EA 0908, March 2009.