You are on page 1of 12

Contra-rotating propeller

for fixed wing MAV: part 1

Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna
The Institute of Aeronautics and Applied Mechanics, Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland

Purpose – This is the first of two companion papers presenting the results of research into a contra-rotating propeller designed to drive a super
manoeuvrable micro air vehicle (MAV). The purpose of this first paper is to describe the design process and numerical analyses. The second paper is
devoted to the experimental results verifying the computations.
Design/methodology/approach – Software based on the analytical formulas derived by Theodore Theodorsen was used in the design procedure.
Three-dimensional finite-volume simulation, performed with the use of commercial software verified the results. Finally, two-dimensional simulation
was conducted to explore the effect of the propeller-wing interaction. The meshes applied in these analyses are described.
Findings – Propeller geometry received as a result of the design procedure is presented. The computation results for different turbulence models applied
are discussed. Time dependent characteristics of contra-rotating propeller are presented as well as conclusions regarding propeller-wing interaction.
Research limitations/implications – Propeller was designed for a fixed wing aeroplane, not for helicopter rotor. Therefore, conditions characteristic
for fixed wing aeroplane flight are analysed only. Reynolds numbers below 50000 are considered.
Practical implications – Designed contra-rotating propeller can be used in fixed wing aeroplane if torque equal to zero is required. Software based on
the formulas derived by T. Theodorsen can be used to design the propellers.
Originality/value – Software applied in the design procedure was originally developed by one of authors although it is based on the formulas derived
by T. Theodorsen. Contra-rotating propeller simulation results for different turbulence models are discussed for the first time. Moreover, unique time
dependent characteristics of contra-rotating propeller are presented.

Keywords Aircraft engineering, Aeroplanes, Propeller-driven aircraft, Design, Turbulence, Super-manoeuvrable MAV, Contra-rotating propeller,
Computational fluid dynamics

Paper type Research paper

Introduction the design of super-manoeuvrable jet fighters, capable of flying

at very high angles of attack. It was assumed that a highly
A micro air vehicle (MAV) is defined here as a small (storable in manoeuvrable MAV could be stable in the turbulent air,
0.5 £ 0.5 £ 0.1 m container), light (takeoff mass smaller than provided that it was equipped with an autopilot fast enough.
1 kg), simple and inexpensive unmanned flying vehicle for direct, Unfortunately, in the literature one could find the data for
over the hill reconnaissance (3 km of operational radius). The relatively high Reynolds number regimes, as compared to those
attention is focused on fixed wing, forward thrust airplane since emerging in MAVs. Therefore, at the end of the project a simple
the capability to negotiate strong opposing winds is required experiment was undertaken to measure the effect of Leading
(wind velocity up to 15 m/s, gust velocity up to 7.5 m/s). The Edge eXtension (LEX) on the MAV characteristics in a
capability of maintaining a slow flight is also desirable. propulsion-less configuration. The result was positive
Several prototypes of fixed wing MAV have been built (Figure 1), but the integration with the propulsion system was
(Morris, 1997; Bovais et al., 2003; Grasmeyer and Keennon, not straightforward.
2001). They achieved a good performance in view of their range The propeller propulsion seems to be the most suitable for a
and endurance. However, they suffer from the turbulence of a fixed wing MAV. The propeller situated at the vehicle front
near earth boundary layer, that generates high variations in the would decrease the angle of attack locally, thus eliminating the
angle of attack, as explained in Watkins et al. (2006). A possible effect of leading edge vortex. On the other hand, a pusher
solution to this problem was noted in the course of the project configuration would be dangerous for hand launching, as direct
described in Galiński et al. (2003), when one of the tested MAV contact of the propeller with the hand of the launching person,
configurations revealed the presence of leading edge vortex. could cause injuries, as well as damages to the airplane.
The leading edge vortex is a well-known phenomenon Therefore, an airplane configuration, with the propeller located
(Polhamus, 1966; Lamar, 1998), that allows for performance in the slot inside of the wing contour, was developed (Figure 3).
In this configuration, the propeller blows directly onto the
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at control surfaces, which is regarded as an additional advantage, almost equivalent to the thrust vectoring of a modern fighter

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal

85/4 (2013) 304– 315 This work was supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1748-8842] Education under grant No. O N509 025836. Special thanks for Ewa
[DOI 10.1108/AEAT-Jan-2012-0008] Dźwiarek who helped to improve the language of this paper.

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

Figure 1 Initial measurements of the lift generated by the delta wing The flight-testing is an ultimate method for verifying results,
MAV in a clean configuration and with the LEX attached therefore the flight tests were undertaken to prove the quality
of the developed configuration (Galiński, 2006). Figure 3
1.5 shows the test vehicle. It has a wing span of 450 mm, wing
with LEX
area of 0.1 m2, aspect ratio 2 weight of 260 g and maximum
clean airspeed of 25 m/s.
The results appeared again to be better than expected
(Figure 4), however some problems were also found. Over-
sensitivity due to the propeller torque was discovered, which
1.0 forced the remote pilot to trim the airplane after each motor
throttle setting change. This over-sensitivity was a disadvantage,
since the autopilot could be overloaded. Therefore, it was decided
CL [ ]

Figure 3 View of the MAV showing the batteries and avionic bays with
the power plant controller and the data acquisition system

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
AoA [ ° ]

The model of this configuration was tested in a wind tunnel as

described in Galiński et al. (2004), to investigate the co- propeller in
operation between the leading edge vortex and propeller the slot
stream. The results were positive (Figure 2) since a greater lift
coefficient was achieved in a wide range of the angles of
attack. The effect is partially due to the air velocity increase
caused by the propeller operation. Wind tunnel airspeed was
used to calculate lift coefficient from the lift force. A greater Source: Photo. Jaros³aw Hajduk
real air velocity on the wing, resulted in a greater maximum
lift coefficient and a higher stall angle.
Figure 4 Load factors normal to the lifting surface
Figure 2 Lift generated by the cranked delta wing MAV in motor nn ¼ lift2 þ drag2 =weight measured in a pull-up manoeuvre in
ON and OFF modes, the elevator in the cruise position flight and calculated from wind tunnel tests
1.5 11
motor ON wind tunnel, motor OFF
10 wind tunnel, motor ON
motor OFF
9 flight test

nn [N/N]

CL[ ]



0.0 0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
AoA [ ° ] V [m/s]

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

to design and test a contra-rotating propeller to drive the MAV. where:

Unfortunately, available literature deals mainly with two cases: Preq – power required to fly.
large contra-rotating propellers and helicopter rotors
(Harrington, 1951; Coleman, 1997; Leishman and Anathan, Other design parameters like RPM, propeller diameter and
2006; Shkarayev et al., 2007). Therefore, the presented spinner diameter were selected arbitrarily by the authors.
approaches cannot be directly applied to small propellers. In The optimal aerodynamic load distribution sCL is calculated
the first case, the ranges of Reynolds numbers are significantly after Crigler (1949) where practical implementation of the
different. In the second case, the external conditions are different Theodorsen theory was discussed. The power required to fly is
since the airplane does not hover and can climb or dive put into the equation defining the total power coefficient of the
independently on motor and propeller settings. The paper propeller (equation (5)):
presents the results of investigations into the design, building and P req
testing of such a propeller. P cT ¼ ð5Þ
ð1=2ÞrV 3 pR2
The paper is organized as follows. First section presents the
design procedure implemented in the original author’s code, where:
Second section summarizes the results obtained from the PcT – total power coefficient.
propeller simulation with the use of finite volume method. R – propeller radius.
Finally, Third section presents the results of 2D simulation of It is approximately equal to the ideal total power coefficient
contra-rotating propeller in the slot. At the end conclusions have (equation (6)):
been drawn.
P cT < P c ¼ 2kwð1
 þ wÞ 1þ w  ð6Þ
Propeller design procedure where:
One of the authors developed a computer code for the design Pc – ideal power coefficient.
of contra-rotating propeller based on the Theodorsen theory k – mass coefficient.
published in Theodorsen (1944a-d). The application of w – relative velocity increase (w/V).
computer allowed for performing more efficient iterative 1 – loss coefficient.
calculations. The procedure works according to the rules The values of k, 1, necessary in this equation, are taken from
represented by equations (1)-(37). experimental diagrams shown in Theodorsen (1944a) relative
The propeller design point is set by the airplane to Jw (equation (7)), and are implemented as polynomials into
steady flight conditions derived from basic Newton’s the design code. Basing on the electrical analogy
laws, assuming that the lift has to be equal to the weight (Theodorsen, 1944a), presents the research into the optimal
(equation (1)) and that the thrust has to be equal to the drag circulation distribution about a propeller blade:
(equation (2)):
1 J w ¼ Jð1 þ wÞ
 ¼ ð1 þ wÞ
L ¼ mg ¼ rV 2 SCL ð1Þ nD
2 where:
T req ¼ rV 2 SC D ð2Þ Jw – advance ratio with the induced velocity.
2 J – advance ratio.
where: n – propeller revolutions per second.
D – propeller diameter.
L – lift.
m – airplane mass. To read the values of k, 1, initially w is assumed to be equal to
g – acceleration of gravity. zero, that allows one to determine k, 1 for certain advance
r – air density. ratios calculated from equation (7). The mass coefficient k0 is
V – airspeed. corrected according to equation (8) taking the spinner
S – wing area. diameter into consideration:
CL – airplane lift coefficient.
Treq – thrust required to fly. k0 ¼ k 2 x20 Kðx0 Þ ð8Þ
CD – airplane drag coefficient. where:
Assuming that weight, wing area, air density, and cruise speed k0 – corrected mass coefficient due to the presence of
are known, it is possible to calculate the design lift coefficient spinner.
from equation (3): K – circulation function.
2mg x0 – ratio of the propeller to spinner diameters.
CL ¼ ð3Þ
rV 2 S The value of K(xo) is taken from Gilman (1951), which
allows also for the determination of 10 corresponding to k0.
This allows for calculating the required thrust and power Equation (6) is then rewritten with the values of k0 , 10
(equation (4)) for steady flight conditions, since a direct relation introduced, and solved iteratively for a relative velocity
between the lift and drag coefficients is known from wind tunnel increase w (equation (9)):
tests of the airplane (Galiński et al., 2004):
P cT
P req ¼ T req V ð4Þ 10 w
 3 þ ð10 þ k0 Þw
 2 þ k0 w
 2 ¼0 ð9Þ

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

The sub-procedure presented in equations (6)-(9) is Re – Reynolds number.

repeated iteratively and a newly obtained w is introduced into n – kinematical viscosity.
equation (6). When the advance ratio Jw is calculated The propeller efficiency and performance are calculated after
with sufficient accuracy, the optimal circulation values K(x) Gilman (1951) for the assumed geometry and design
(Gilman, 1951) are determined for certain propeller sections. parameters. Equations (20) and (21) are used to calculate
All information necessary to calculate sufficient front and rear the derivatives of torque coefficients, whereas equations (22)
blades twists as well as the load distribution are now available and (23) are used to calculate the derivatives of thrust
in equations (10)-(14): coefficients for both front and rear propeller blades:
J 1 þ ð1=2Þw  dCQ p
w ¼ arctan ð10Þ ¼ J 2 ð1 þ 0:25k0 w  F sin2 wo Þ2 ðscl ÞF
p x dx F 8
J ð20Þ
tan wF ¼ ½1 þ 0:5wð1 þ 0:5k tan2 wÞ ð11Þ cos wF
px  ðtan wF þ tan gF Þx2
sin2 wo
tan wR ¼ ½1 þ 0:5wð1 2 0:5k tan2 wÞ ð12Þ dC Q p
px ¼ J 2 ð1 þ 0:75k0 w  R sin2 wo Þ2 ðscl ÞR
dx R 8
J ð1 þ wÞw sin wo
ðscl ÞF ¼ K ðxÞ ð13Þ ð21Þ
px 1 þ 0:25kw sin2 wo cos wF
ðtan wR þ tan gR Þx2
J ð1 þ wÞw sin wo sin wo
ðscl ÞR ¼ K ðxÞ ð14Þ    
px 1 þ 0:75kw sin2 wo dCT 2 ð1 2 tanðwF ÞtanðgF ÞÞ dC Q
¼ ð22Þ
dx F x ðtanðwF Þ þ tanðgF ÞÞ dx F
dC T 2 ð1 2 tanðwR ÞtanðgR ÞÞ dC Q
w – angle between resultant velocity and linear ¼ ð23Þ
dx R x ðtanðwR Þ þ tanðgR ÞÞ dx R
velocity resulting from propeller rotation (F – front
blade, R – rear blade). where:
x – relative radius of a propeller section (r/R).
sCL – propeller element load coefficient. CQF,R – torque coefficient.
CTF,R – thrust coefficient.
J The coefficients of thrust and moment are given by equations
w0 ¼ arctan ð15Þ
px (24)-(27):
Z 1:0  
Equations (13) and (14) taken for certain sections of blades dCQ
and divided by the lift coefficient give the chord distribution C QF ¼ dx ð24Þ
xo dx F
for both the front and rear blades: Z 1:0  
ðscl ÞF 2pr C QR ¼ dx ð25Þ
cF ¼ ð16Þ xo dx R
BclF Z 1:0  
dC T
ðscl ÞR 2pr C TF ¼ dx ð26Þ
cR ¼ ð17Þ xo dx F
BclR Z 1:0  
where: dC T
C TR ¼ dx ð27Þ
xo dx R
cF,R – propeller chords (F – front, R – rear).
clF,R – propeller airfoil lift coefficient. The power coefficients are calculated from the coefficients of
r – radius of a propeller section. moment:
B – number of propeller blades.
The Reynolds number is then calculated according to C PF ¼ 2pC QF ð28Þ
formula (18) which allows for correcting the airfoil drag C PF ¼ 2pC QF ð29Þ
coefficient. The developed code tends to balance the drag
against the required thrust, that is why the optimum load and where:
airfoil lift coefficients may change. After every airfoil lift CPF,R – power coefficient.
coefficient change the airfoil drag should be corrected
corresponding to the actual local lift coefficient and The efficiency is determined from equation (30):
Reynolds number: JðC TF þ CTR Þ
h¼ ð30Þ
V xc C PF þ C PR
Re ¼ ð18Þ
n where:
where: h – efficiency.
Finally, torque, thrust and power absorbed by propeller are
rffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi equal to:
Vx ¼ V 1þ ð19Þ
J T F ¼ C TF rn2 D4 ð31Þ

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

That part of the research allows for better understanding of

T R ¼ C TR rn2 D4 ð32Þ the phenomena emerging in the course of contra-rotating
QF ¼ C QF rn2 D5 ð33Þ propeller operations.
2 5
A complicated propeller geometry posed severe obstacles to
QR ¼ C QR rn D ð34Þ the mesh generation. A triangular mesh was put onto the
P F ¼ C PF rn3 D5 ð35Þ propeller surface. The mesh was denser close to the leading and
3 5
trailing edges. A spatial mesh was generated for each blade
P R ¼ C PR rn D ð36Þ separately. Each mesh was enclosed in a semi-cylindrical
volume. The mesh was denser near the blade surface. Flat
surfaces of semi-cylinders were declared as an “interface” and
TF,R – propeller thrust. used to transfer the flow data in the course of computations.
QF,R – propeller torque. Meshes for both propellers were produced in the same way. The
PF,R – power absorbed by the propeller. only difference consisted in the opposite twist directions of the
The parameters obtained from the above calculations blades in both the planes of revolution. At the beginning of
are then compared with the thrust and power necessary simulation, the propellers were orthogonal to each other.
for flight. The difference between them is calculated and Finally, the mesh of the external volume was created. Figures 6
added to the assumed power which is again used in and 7 show the configuration of all volumes and meshes.
equation (5): The trailing edge appeared critical near the blade tips,
because long aspect ratio cells were generated. Moreover, the
dP ¼ ðP req 2 hðP F þ P R ÞÞ ð37Þ blade tip had very short chord and only few panels represented
P ¼ P þ dP ð38Þ the blade tip airfoil. Despite the difficulties, after several
attempts, an acceptable volume mesh has been generated
Table I shows the propeller blade geometry obtained (Figure 8).
using the above software code and Figure 5 shows this The simulation started with preliminary calculations under
geometry drawn with commercial CAD software, ready for stationary conditions. The boundary conditions around
manufacturing, for the micro UAV described in the propeller blades volume represented rotation of the fluid.
introduction. The solver was switched to the transient conditions with
rotating mesh and computations continued. Figure 9 shows
Propeller simulation examples of calculated pressure distributions for various
time steps.
The designed propeller was simulated using commercial Simulation parameters:
software based on the finite volume method (Ansys, 2011). 1 air velocity far from the propeller 15.118 m/s; and
2 propeller RPM-s 160 rev/s ¼ 9,600 rpm for each blade.
Table I Blade geometry developed basing on the Theodorsen theory
It was not clear which turbulence model in simulation would
x/R (– ) bF (8) bR (8) cF/R ( –) cR/R ( –) give the best agreement with the real propeller performance.
0.1 65.0 61.2 0.356 0.343 The simulation was performed for Spalart-Allmaras,
0.2 44.2 43.1 0.267 0.262
k-v Standard, k-v with the shear stress transition (SST)
0.3 32.4 32.0 0.204 0.201
0.4 25.6 25.4 0.161 0.160
Figure 6 Mesh on the propeller surface
0.5 21.2 21.0 0.132 0.131
0.6 18.1 18.0 0.111 0.111
0.7 15.8 15.8 0.094 0.094
0.8 14.1 14.0 0.080 0.079
0.9 12.7 12.7 0.063 0.063
0.95 11.6 11.6 0.044 0.044
1 10.7 10.7 0.0 0.0
Note: bF,R pitch angles of front and rear blades

Figure 5 Geometry of the propeller ready for manufacturing

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

Figure 7 (a) Mesh around isolated blade, (b) volume around isolated blade, and (c) volume around the whole propeller

(a) (b)


option and Reynolds stress turbulence models and compared the experimental ones was observed. Both the k-v Standard
with the design results and wind tunnel experimental turbulence model (overestimation of power) and the Reynolds
results (Figure 10). The experiment is described in the second stress turbulence model (time-consuming computations) were
part of the paper (Mieloszyk et al., 2012). The monitored values rejected from further computations.
of parameters were averaged after the flow nature had become For the two remaining models of turbulence, i.e. Spalart-
periodic, typically after 14 blade passes. All computed Allmaras and k-v SST, the mesh was refined basing on
power values are in good agreement with the experimental pressure gradients, resulting in a mesh with about 1.5 times
results except for the simulation with k-v Standard turbulence higher number of cells. Figure 11 shows the history of
model. The thrust obtained from simulation for all turbulence residuals for the k-v SST turbulence model. Figure 11(a)
models is overestimated, but the values are comparable to each shows the whole history of residuals, Figure 11(b) shows the
other. The design procedure underestimated the thrust value, residuals of approximately one propellers blade pass and
however still the smallest difference between those results and Figure 11(c) shows the residuals during a single time step

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

Figure 8 Mesh imperfections

(a) (b)
Notes: (a) Mesh around the blade tip; (b) the worst cell of the mesh

Figure 9 Examples of pressure distributions over surfaces of the blades

Figure 10 Comparison between computational and experimental results for thrust and power

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

Figure 11 Residuals history


x-velocity residuals [ ]

x-velocity residuals [ ]

residuals [ ]

Iterations Iterations
(b) (c)
Notes: (a) General; (b) one pass; (c) single time step

when propeller mesh rotates by a small angle, which was During the passing, the accuracy drops slightly, which can be
about 38. A few specific points can be noted in Figure 11(a). seen through a small hill between 12,100 and 12,300 iterations.
At the beginning the solver had turned on the option The steep peaks represent a small mesh rotation every time step
“Reference Mesh”, which indicates the fluid rotation without and the process of convergence after geometry change.
changing a mesh. After initial calculations, at point A in Figure 11(c) shows magnified part of Figure 11(b) to show
Figure 11(a), the option of “Reference Mesh” was changed to the process of mesh rotation during two time steps with a plot of
“Moving Mesh”, simulating the real working conditions of the every recorded residual with k-v SST turbulence model.
propeller. Every time step the propeller blade rotated about Figure 12 shows the thrust history for both turbulence models
38, which corresponded to the rotational velocity of the before and after the mesh adaptation, respectively. The results
propeller. During each time step the computations continued prove that the initial mesh density is fine enough to yield good
until all residuals converged below D ¼ 1e 2 3, or when solutions.
reaching the iteration limit of 25 iterations. The iteration limit Figure 13 shows both the thrust and moment, respectively, on
was never reached except for the first few iterations with the each blade as well as on the whole propeller. The thrust has a
“Moving Mesh” option. After 8,000 iterations the solution negative sign, since the reference system was used with the x-axis
residuals became very repeatable. At point B in Figure 11(a) directed along the flow. Rapid variations in pressure distributions
the mesh adaptation was used to check if the mesh density is were observed at the moment when the blades were passing each
accurate. No noticeable change in residuals was observed other. In critical moments the sign of the pressure, measured on
and computations were stopped after 13,500 iterations. the propeller blades could change but after the passage had
Figure 11(b) shows one blade passing of the propeller blades. completed the normal pressure distribution was restored. Except

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

Figure 12 Thrust characteristics of a propeller before and after adaptation, respectively

before adaptation after adaptation

Figure 13 Histories of the propeller thrust and torque

for the aforementioned peaks, the monitored parameters time Two-dimensional simulation of blade passing
courses are relatively flat. The most important advantage of the through a slot
contra-rotating propeller can be observed. The cumulative
moment of the propeller is equal to zero over a major part of the From the previous analysis it can be clearly seen that the most
cycle duration. The magnitudes of thrust and torque on the front interesting things happen during the blade passing. Similar
and rear propellers are almost the same in case of considered events occur when the propeller blades pass through the slot
propeller. in the wing. Additional 2D analyses where carried out to

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

investigate what happens then. The authors compared a The biggest change is observed in the aerodynamic efficiency K,
smooth airfoil of the UAV wing with the case in which wing which has a direct influence on the UAV flight range. The
airfoil had a slot with sharpened edges and the propeller aircraft with a slot has approximately 2.5 times worse
airfoils passed through it simultaneously (Figure 14). aerodynamic efficiency, but it has to be remembered that the
At the beginning of simulation the propeller airfoils were far aircraft without the slot does not have such a good aerodynamic
away from the UAV wing. Computations started under the characteristics for high angles of attack (Galiński et al., 2004).
steady state flight conditions. The initial velocity was applied This is the price one should pay for the compromise made.
on the surfaces of the propeller blades, which corresponded to Worsen aerodynamic efficiency results appear due to drag
the rotational velocity. This allowed us to avoid generation of increase at small angles of attack. The pitching moment, which
a starting vortex, when the propeller blades started to move. pulls down the nose of aircraft, is much higher for the aircraft
After steady state computations had converged a dynamic with a slot. That is a disadvantageous behaviour which increases
mesh was turned on. the trim drag of UAV. What is interesting, the coefficients of lift
The mesh was divided into a few areas. The areas of fine mesh and drag for the propeller airfoils are both two times higher for
around the wing and propeller blades were not changed the wing with a slot and because of that aerodynamic efficiency
(Figure 14), to avoid mesh degradation. The layering method of the propeller does not change. Calculations with different
was applied to the mesh areas in front of and behind the types of slot are presented in Mieloszyk (2011).
propeller blades, respectively. When the blades moved, a row of
the mesh was subtracted in front of the blade mesh (rectangular
dense mesh around propeller blades) and added behind it. This
way, smaller number of changes was applied to the mesh and the A software package based on the Theodorsen propeller theory
computational process was stable and under the control, for contra-rotating propellers design was developed. It was
providing a very good convergence rate. The computations were applied to the design process of a contra-rotating propeller
performed for configurations, in which the front propeller went for MAVs. The simulation was also performed with the
down and the rear one went up and for the inverse scheme. The application of commercial software based on the finite-volume
results from both the cases were averaged, because they occur method, using the available Spalart-Allmaras, k-v Standard,
simultaneously one on the left wing and the other on the right k-v with SST option and Reynolds stress turbulence models.
wing, respectively. The Spalart-Allmaras and k-v SST turbulence models were
The total averaged results are shown in Figure 15. The values chosen to continue the simulation. They are computationally
presented on the graph are normalized to be easily comparable. efficient and yield satisfactory results. Most computations

Figure 14 2D dynamic mesh of propeller’s blades passing through the slot in the wing (cross-section – 75 per cent of propeller’s radius)


step i step i+3

(b) (c)
Notes: (a) Section definition; (b) mesh details in the area of the slot; (c) mesh motion (red rows subtracted,
blue rows added)

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

Figure 15 Normalized coefficients for: (a) airfoil with the slot and propeller and (b) clean airfoil

(a) (b)

yielded accurate results, although some disagreement with the Gilman, J.J. (1951), “Application of Theodorsen’s
experiment is noticeable. All computational methods need propeller theory to the calculation of the performance of
some adjustments to give more accurate and reliable results. dual-rotating propellers”, NACA RM L51A17.
The application of rotating mesh option allowed for obtaining Grasmeyer, J.M. and Keennon, M.T. (2001), “Development
time dependent characteristics, which are presented for the of the black widow micro air vehicle”, AIAA Paper
first time. Some comments on the wing-propeller interactions 2001-0127, January.
were made with the application of two-dimensional Harrington, R.D. (1951), “Full-scale-tunnel investigation of
simulation experiment. the static thrust performance of a coaxial helicopter rotor”,
NACA TN 2318.
Lamar, J.E. (1998), “The use and characteristics of vortical flows
References near a generating aerodynamic surface: a perspective”, Prog.
Aerospace Sci., Vol. 34 Nos 3/4, pp. 167-217.
Ansys (2011), available at: Leishman, J.G. and Anathan, S. (2006), “Aerodynamic
Products/SimulationþTechnology/FluidþDynamics/ optimization of a coaxial proprotor”, American Helicopter
ANSYSþFLUENT Society 62nd Annual Forum Proceedings, Phoenix, AZ, 9-11 May.
Bovais, C., Mackrell, J., Foch, R. and Carruthers, S. (2003), Mieloszyk, J. (2011), “Handling optimization problems on an
“Dragon eye UAV: concept to production”, Proceedings of example of micro UAV”, Proceedings of 3rd CEAS Air
UAVs XVIII International Conference, Bristol, UK, 31 March- & Space Conference, Venice, Italy, 24-28 October,
2 April, pp. 3.1-3.12. pp. 1428-1438.
Coleman, C.P. (1997), “A survey of theoretical Mieloszyk, J., Galiński, C. and Piechna, J. (2012), “Contra-
and experimental coaxial rotor aerodynamic research”, rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part II”, Aircraft
NASA TP 3675. Engineering & Aerospace Technology, Vol. 85 No. 5.
Crigler, J.L. (1949), “Application of Theodorsen’s theory to Morris, S.J. (1997), “Design and flight test results for
propeller design”, NACA RM L8F30, NACA TR 924. micronized fixed-wing and VTOL aircraft”, Proceedings of
Galiński, C. (2006), “Gust resistant fixed wing micro air vehicle”, the First International Conference on Emerging Technologies
Journal of Aircraft, AIAA, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 1586-1588. for Micro Air Vehicles, Georgia Institute of Technology,
Galiński, C., Eyles, M. and Żbikowski, R. (2003), Atlanta, GA, February.
“Experimental aerodynamics of delta wing MAVs and Polhamus, E.C. (1966), “A concept of the vortex lift of
their scaling”, Proceedings of the XVIII International sharp-edge delta wings based on a leading-edge-suction
UAV Conference, Bristol, UK, 31 March-2 April, analogy”, NASA Technical Note TN D-3767, December.
pp. 37.1-37.11. Shkarayev, S., Moschetta, J.M. and Bataille, B. (2007),
Galiński, C., Lawson, N. and Żbikowski, R. (2004), “Delta “Aerodynamic design of VTOL micro air vehicles”, paper
wing with leading edge extension and propeller propulsion presented at 3rd US-European Competition and Workshop on
for fixed wing MAV”, Proceedings of ICAS Congress, ICAS, Micro Air Vehicle Systems (MAV07) and European Micro Air
Yokohama, Japan, 29 August-3 September, ICAS Paper Vehicle Conference and Flight Competition (EMAV2007),
2004-1.10.5. Toulouse, France, 17-21 September.

Contra-rotating propeller for fixed wing MAV: part 1 Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal
Jacek Mieloszyk, Cezary Galiński and Janusz Piechna Volume 85 · Number 4 · 2013 · 304 –315

Theodorsen, T. (1944a), “The theory of propellers I – Theodorsen, T. (1944d), “The theory of propellers IV –
determination of the circulation function and the thrust, energy, and efficiency formulas for single- and dual-
mass coefficient for dual-rotating propellers”, NACA rotating propellers with ideal circulation distribution”,
TR 775. NACA TR 778.
Theodorsen, T. (1944b), “The theory of propellers II – Watkins, S., Milbank, J., Loxton, B. and Melbourne, W.
method for calculating the axial interference velocity”, (2006), “Atmospheric winds and their implications for
microair vehicles”, AIAA Journal, Vol. 44 No. 11,
pp. 2591-2600.
Theodorsen, T. (1944c), “The theory of propellers III – the
slipstream contraction with numerical values for two-blade
and four-blade propellers”, NACA-ACR-L4J10,
Corresponding author
NACA TR 777. Cezary Galiński can be contacted at:

To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail:

Or visit our web site for further details: