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com Research Paper

Analyzing the lift of a unmanned aerial vehicle wing by using computational

fluid dynamics
Zoya. A. Rizvi1, D.S.S.Sudhakar2
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, NMIMS University, Mumbai,
Professor D.S.S. Sudhakar, Department of Production Engineering, FRCRCE, Mumbai
University, India

The purpose of this paper is to optimize the airfoil for designing the wing of a UAV for best L/D ratio
using CFD technique. A set of five to ten airfoils were chosen randomly from UIUC database website
for prototype designing of UAV based on historical data trend study for subsonic light weight UAV.
These airfoils were studied for weight, chord length, aspect ratio and velocity in XFLR software and
cl, cd ratios thus obtained was used to obtain lift and drag manually. Three airfoil giving best L/D
ratio were chosen to analyse in Ansys software by setting boundary conditions. Experiments in CFD
involved setting up of Mesh, solving and post processing the problem domain. The results indicated
that the L/D ratio changes at changing Reynolds number and the contours of pressure and velocity
were studied to obtain a safe flight at takeoff conditions.

Keywords: Airfoil optimization, wing, L/D ratio, CFD, Re number

I Introduction and Literature

Introduction to flight

There are four forces that act on an aircraft in flight: lift, weight, thrust, and drag. The motion of
the aircraft through the air depends on the these forces. The weight of an airplane is determined
by the size and materials used in the airplane's construction and on the payload and fuel that the
airplane carries. The thrust is determined by the size and type of propulsion system used on the
airplane and on the throttle setting selected by the pilot. Lift and drag are aerodynamic forces
that depend on the weight of the aircraft, air conditions, airfoil shape and the flight velocity.[4]
Because lift and drag are both aerodynamic forces, the ratio of lift to drag is an indication of the
aerodynamic efficiency of the airplane. Aerodynamicists call the lift to drag ratio the L/D ratio,
pronounced "L over D ratio." An airplane has a high L/D ratio if it produces a large amount of
lift or a small amount of drag. Because under cruise conditions lift is equal to weight, a high lift
aircraft can carry a large payload. And because under cruise conditions thrust is equal to drag, a
low drag aircraft requires low thrust.

Lift = ,½ x -ρ ,x V-2.., x CL x S (1)

Drag = ½ x -ρ ,x V-2.., x CD x S (2)

Thrust is produced by burning a fuel. To generate high thrust, large amounts of fuel are burned. A
low thrust aircraft requires low fuel usage. For gliders (aircraft with no engines), a high L/D ratio
again produces a long range aircraft by reducing the steady state glide angle. Also, the L/D ratio
is also equal to the ratio of the lift and drag coefficients. Lift and drag coefficients are normally
determined experimentally using a wind tunnel or simulation software like CFD. But for some
simple geometries, they can be determined mathematically.[4]

A recent trend in aircraft conceptual design activity is to develop or to implement the quick and
accurate design analysis tools for seeking the deterministic optimal design solutions by
compromising many complex and highly-coupled subsystems and disciplines [1] with the help of
optimization algorithms. The optimal results from conceptual design stage play an extremely
important role to the next preliminary and detailed design stage. However, the nondeterministic
nature of the complex aircraft design problem and the importance of the modelling the human
designer’s decision making activities have been largely neglected [2] at the conceptual design
stage. For example, the design flight speed is required as a design variable to maximize the
aircraft critical performance features at conceptual design of Medium Altitude Long Endurance
(MALE) UAV. The design flight speed might be slightly changeable during very long endurance
or it might be affected by the wind. In addition, the round off of main geometry parameters
during constructing the mathematical models or manufacturing stage and the lack of knowledge
might lead to the variations in the conceptual optimal design solutions. These sources are called
the uncertainty or unexpected derivations. The robust design is applied to prevent such
phenomena [3]. In this paper L/D ratio is the critical performance feature for design of the UAV.
The UAV requirements are listed below:

Table 1. Table of UAV design Requirements

Sr.No. Requirements
1. Gross Weight ≤ 65 lbs or 29.54 kg
2. Take off time 3 min
3. Height 100 ft

In order to build an aircraft the first requirement no. 1 is main, there are some other critical
parameters that can be assumed based on previous trend study of similar UAVs based on this
main parameter. These critical parameters are aspect ratio, velocity, wingspan, chord length,
density etc. are main control factors of an aircraft.
III Computational fluid Dynamics
Methodology in CFD
The methodology of CFD consist of 3 steps:

1. Pre Processing: This step consist of defining a geometry to define our domain of interest.
The domain of interest is then divided into segments, called as mesh generation step and
the problem is set-up defining the boundary conditions. Gridgen, CFD-GEOM, or
ANSYS Workbench Environment Modules, ANSYS ICEM CFD, ANSYS GAMBIT, etc.,
are some of the popular pre-processing software’s.

2. Solver: Once the problem is set-up defining the boundary conditions we solve it with the
software on the computer, (can also be done by hand-calculations, but would take long
time). We have different popular commercial software’s available for this like Star-CD
and Star CCM+ (CD-Adapco), FLUENT and CFX (ANSYS, Inc), GASP (Aerosoft,Inc),
CFD++ (Metacomp Technologies) etc. Also there are free to use software’s like
OpenFOAM, CFL3D, Typhon, OVERFLOW, Wind-US etc, all with different
capabilities. These software’s are capable of solving the equations at every probe-point
defined during the mesh generation step and also we can include additional models as
required by the physics. The numerical methods are also defined at this stage and we
solve the whole problem.

3. Post-processing: Once we get the results as values at our probe points we analyse them
by means of colour plots, contour plots, appropriate graphical representations can
generate reports. Tecplot 360, EnSight, Field View, ParaView, ANSYS CFD-Post etc., are
some of the popular post processing software’s.

Mathematical description of Fluid Flow

Reynolds number and Mach number are two critical parameters in designing a subsonic flight.
These are dimensionless numbers. The value of Mach ≤ 1 for subsonic flight. Reynolds number
is a non-dimensional value and it is a ratio of inertial force to viscous force, defined as:

Re = ρ x V x L (3)

Where ρ is density , V is velocity magnitude, L is length of chord and µ is viscosity.

The Navier-Stokes equation is named after Claude-Louis Navier and George

Gabriel Stokes. This equation provides a mathematical model of the motion
of a uid. It is an important equation in the study of uid dynamics, and it
uses many core aspects to vector calculus.
Let us now consider the Navier-Stokes equation, what it means, and how
it can be used to simulate something physical phenomena. As observed in
[16], the Navier-Stokes equation can be viewed as an application of Newtons
second law, F = ma, which states that force is the product of the mass of
an object times its acceleration. (Note, we will now be using f to represent
forces, not scalar or vector _elds.) In this equivalent equation, we see the use
of density and shear stress. Density is a measurement of an objects mass per
unit volume, while shear stress is de_ned as the component of stress coplanar
with a material cross section, where the force vector component runs parallel

to the cross section. Consider [6]:

_[@u=@t + u:ru] = r_ + f (2.20)
where _ denotes the density of the uid and is equivalent to mass, @u=@t +
u:ru is the acceleration and u is velocity, and r_+f is the total force, with
r_ being the shear stress and f being all other forces. We may also write
this as
_[@u=@t + uru] = rp _ru + f (2.21)
Where p is pressure and _ is dynamic viscosity. Viscosity is de_ned as the
measure of the resistance of a uid which is being deformed by the shear
stress. Finally, by dividing out and subtracting , we obtain the traditional
form of the Navier-Stokes equation [6]:
du=dt = (u:r):u 1=_rp + r2u + f (2.22)
Turbulent Model-Spallart Allmaras

In CFD software, wings are simulated under the turbulent flows. Normally, the method of
turbulent numerical simulation consists of two main parts, which are Direct Numerical
Simulation (DNS) and Indirect Numerical Simulation (INS). Although DNS has a precise
calculated result, but the whole range of spatial and temporal scales of the turbulence must be
resolved which requires a very small time step size, hence this is not suitable for CFD
simulation. There are three different types of simulated methods under the Indirect Numerical
Simulation which are large eddy simulation (LES), Reynolds averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS)
and detached eddy simulation (DES). In order to simulate turbulent flows, theoretically, the
computational domain should be big enough to contain the biggest eddy. Meanwhile, the mesh
should be small enough to find out the smallest eddy. But the current grid was too coarse to catch
the small eddies. Hence large eddy simulation (LES) is a technique which filters small eddies
while conserving large energy eddies. This method requires a more refined mesh than RANS
model, but a far coarser mesh than DNS solutions. The equation of Reynolds-averaged Navier-
Stokes (RANS) is defined as:[5]

In this equation, U is the velocity vector and P is the pressure. On the left-hand side, the first
term is the unsteady (time-dependent) inertial component (in fact, it is the acceleration of the
ow). The second term is the non-linear inertial term. On the righthand side, the _rst term is the
driving pressure gradient, and the _nal term represents viscous dissipation.It is the oldest and
most common approach to turbulence modelling; the left hand side of the equation describe the
change in mean momentum of uid element and the right hand side of the equation is the
assumption of mean body force and divergence stress.
j is an unknown term and called Reynolds stresses. The RANS equation is not closed due to the
presence of stress term, so it requires a turbulence model to produce a closed system of solvable
equation. The turbulence model contains one and two equations model. The famous one equation
Spalart-Allmaras model and two equations standard k models are widely used in most CFD
softwares. The transport equation of Spalart-Allmaras model can be described as:[5]

When the Reynolds number is high enough, i.e when the inertial forces overcomes the viscous
forces, laminar ows becomes unstable and chaotic. The particles in these high Reynolds ows are
animated of random movements around the mean trajectory. The boundary layer velocity pro_le
is modi_ed and eddies of large range size appear and disappear almost instantaneously. These
ows are called turbulent ows, the air ow around an aircraft is an example of such turbulent ow.
The following picture shows a laminar ow becoming unstable and turbulent past a grid.Turbulent
ows are very complicated to simulate as to resolve all the eddies generated, very _ne mesh and
high computational resources need to be employed. To overcome these limitations, some
researchers have introduced models that try to simulate the e_ect of the turbulence on the mean
ow.One of this model is the Spalart- Allmaras model from Boeing introduced in the 90s.[6]
This model is based on a convective-di_usion equation.This model has been implemented in
num3sis and tested on a test case known as the zero pressure gradient turbulent at plate where a
Mach 0.2 at ow hit a at plate on which develops a turbulent boundary layer at a Reynolds number
0of 5 _ 106 based on half the size of the plate.The _rst point on the grid above the at plate is set to
02 _ 106 which gives a dimensionless distance y+ inferior to 1. Y+ is a nondimensional wall
distance for wall bounded ows
like airow over the airfoil.[6]

IV Experimentation

1. Take of Weight Wo = Payload + Wf + We

= 3 + 1.74 + 5.26 = 10 Lbs
2. Wing Span b & Chord C
Assuming Aspect Ratio, A= 7(Assumed)
b = 5.85 ft = 70.95 in
C = 10.14 in
3. Reynold Number Estimate Re
Re = 158184 -150000

Airfoil Selection

XFLR Analysis
Manual Calculations
1) Lift =
2) Drag =
Mesh creation

Processing & Post processing in fluent

V Results
VI Conclusion

After conducting the Computational Fluid Dynamics Analysis for the Vayushastra -1 developed by FRCRCE team of
year 2013, CFD analysis results are compared with the results obtained by manual calculations done by using
another software called XFLR and after comparing these two set of results it is noted that they have a good co-
relation and comparability among them. And as it is so the purpose of this project is fulfilled.

VI Future Scope

The future scope of this project lies in the fact that the aerodynamic analysis of an aircraft is a vast field of research
and development. So, it can be seen that the R&D can be done in the fields of aero-acoustics, fluid structure
interactions, etc. For this project the flow is assumed to be incompressible and for a zero degree angle of attack. So
the research can be done for compressible flow and various values of angle of attack.


[1] J. Sobieszczanski-Sobieski and R. T. Haftka, Multidisciplinary aerospace design ptimization:

survey of recent developments, Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, vol. 14, no. 1, pp.
1-23, 1997.
[2] Dimitri N Mavris, Oliver Bandte, and Daniel A DeLaurentis, Robust Design Simulation : A
Probabilistic Approach to Multidisciplinary Design, Journal of Aircraft, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 298-
307, 1999.
[3] Gyung-Jin Park, Tae-Hee Lee, Kwon Hee Lee, and Kwang-Hyeon Hwang, Robust Design:
An Overview, AIAA Journal, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 181-191, 2006.
[4] NASA, Glenn Research centre website :
[5] Master’s thesis by Han Cao (2011). Aerodynamics analysis of small
horizontal axis wind turbine blades by using 2D & 3D CFD Modelling.
Published by University of central Lancashire, England.
[6] Book written by H.K. Versteeg, Malalasekera (1995). Computational uid
dynamics : Finite Volume method. Longman Scienti_c & Technical Publication.
ISBN 0-470-23515-2 (USA only)