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Future Technology and Aircraft Types

10/09/2007 11:17 PM

Future Technology and Aircraft Types
The following discussion is based on a presentation by Ilan Kroo entitled, Reinventing the Airplane: New Concepts for Flight in the 21st Century.

When we think about what may appear in future aircraft designs, we might look at recent history. The look may be frightening. From first appearances, anyway, nothing has happened in the last 40 years! There are many causes of this apparent stagnation. The first is the enormous economic risk involved. Along with the investment risk, there is a liability risk which is of especially great concern to U.S. manufacturers of small aircraft. One might also argue that the commercial aircraft manufacturers are not doing too badly, so why argue with success and do something new? These issues are discussed in the previous section on the origins of aircraft. Because of the development of new technologies or processes, or because new roles and missions appear for aircraft, we expect that aircraft will indeed change. Most new aircraft will change in evolutionary ways, but more revolutionary ideas are possible too. This section will discuss several aspects of future aircraft including the following: Improving the modern airplane New configurations New roles and requirements
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reductions in cost by nearly a factor of 3 since the 707 have been achieved through improvements in aerodynamics. a 10% reduction in maneuver bending load can be translated into a 3% http://adg. Although the aircraft configuration looks similar. Reduced structural loads permit larger spans for a given structural weight and thus a lower induced drag. control systems.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM Improving the Modern Airplane Breakthroughs in many fields have provided evolutionary improvements in performance. to more recent applications on the Airbus and 777 aircraft for stability augmentation.html Page 2 of 10 . ranging from the relatively simple angle of attack limiting found on airplanes such as the Boeing 727. structures and materials. and (primarily) propulsion technology. to maneuver and gust load control investigated early with L-1011 aircraft. Active Controls Active flight control can be used in many ways. As we will see. Some of these areas are described in the following sections.edu/aa241/intro/futureac.stanford.

due in part to advances in viscous computational capabilities. In addition to performance advantages the use of these systems may be suggested for reasons of reliability.edu/aa241/intro/futureac. The figure below illustrates some of the rather different airfoil concepts used over the past several decades. although some of the advantages are arguable. The examples below show the divergent trailing edge section developed for the MD-11 and a cross-section of the Aerobie.stanford. Such systems may also enable new configuration concepts. Reduced stability requirements permit smaller tail surfaces or reduced trim loads which often provide both drag and weight reductions. One example of an emerging area in airfoil design is the constructive use of separation. although even when applied to conventional designs. a flying ring toy that uses this unusual section to enhance the ring's stability. New Airfoil Concepts Airfoil design has improved dramatically in the past 40 years. This produces about a 6% reduction in induced drag. Continuing progress in airfoil design is likely in the next few years. Flow Near Trailing Edge of DTE Airfoil and Aerobie Cross-Section http://adg. improvements in performance are achievable.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM span increase without increasing wing weight. improved safety or ride quality. and reduced pilot workload. from the transonic "peaky" sections used on aircraft in the 60's and 70's to the more aggressive supercritical sections used on today's aircraft.html Page 3 of 10 .

vortex control and hybrid laminar flow control are more likely possibilities. improved methods for integrating discipline-based design into a better system are being developed. and more recent concepts using MEMS devices or synthetic jets. and military aircraft. Multidisciplinary Optimization In addition to advances in disciplinary technologies. At the moment composite materials are used in empennage primary structure on commercial transports and on the small ATR-72 outer wing boxes. Structures Structural materials and design concepts are evolving rapidly. but it is expected that in the next 10-20 years the airlines and the FAA will be more ready to adopt this technology. Propulsion Propulsion is the area in which most evolutionary progress has been made in the last few decades and which will continue to improve the economics of aircraft. which seeks to reduce drag by maintaining extensive runs of laminar flow. composite materials are finally finding their way into a larger fraction of the aircraft structure. UAV's. Interest in very clean. low noise engines is growing for aircraft ranging from commuters and regional jets to supersonic transports. The field of multidisciplinary optimization permits detailed analyses and design methods in several disciplines to be combined to best advantage for the system as a whole.html Page 4 of 10 . If the aerodynamics group assumes a certain structural design and optimizes the design with respect to aerodynamic design http://adg.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM Flow Control Subtle manipulation of aircraft aerodynamics. unbelievably large turbines are continuing to evolve. to vortex flow control (through blowing or small vortex generators). the concept of controlling aerodynamic flows by making small changes in the right way is a major area of aerodynamic research. while low cost small turbine engines may well revolutionize small aircraft design in the next 20 years.stanford. Although some of the more unusual concepts (including active control of turbulence) are far from practical realization. From laminar flow control.edu/aa241/intro/futureac. Despite the conservative approach taken by commercial airlines. Very high efficiency. but even for subsonic applications concepts such as stitched resin film infusion (RFI) are beginning to make costcompetitive composite applications more believable. principally the wing and fuselage boundary layers. The figure here shows the problem with sequential optimization of a design in individual disciplines. can be used to increase performance and provide control. New materials and processes are critical for high speed aircraft.

the use of more formal optimization methods are necessary. but one that is not the best solution. and this process is repeated. Some typical estimates for fuel savings associated with "advanced" technologies are given below. Active Control Composites Laminar Flow Improved Wing Propulsion Total 10% 20% 10% 10% 20% 70% New Configuration Concepts Apart from evolutionary improvements in conventional aircraft. the re-designed aircraft provides many times that advantage. This is possible when the configuration concept iteself is changed and when new roles or requirements are introduced. Note that these are sometimes optimistic. The figure to the right shows how an aircraft was redesigned to incorporate active control technologies.html Page 5 of 10 . Although a specific technology may provide a certain drag savings. revolutionary changes are possible when the "rules" are changed. but when hundreds or thousands of design degrees of freedom are available. the advantages may be amplified by exploiting these savings in a re-optimized design. and cannot be simply added together. then the structures group finds the best design (in the vertical degree of freedom).stanford. we arrive at a converged solution.edu/aa241/intro/futureac. Conventional trade studies in 1 or 2 or several parameters are fine. some of which are currently being pursued by NASA and industry. http://adg. While the reduced static margin provides small performance gains. The following images give some idea of the range of concepts that have been studied over the past few years.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM variables (corresponding to horizontal motion in the conceptual plot shown on the right).

It is currently being considered for application to high altitiude long endurance UAVs. Jones at http://adg.html Page 6 of 10 . Julian Wolkovitch in the 1980's as an efficient structural arrangement in which the horizontal tail was used as a sturcural support for the main wing as well as a stabilizing surface. Joined Wing The joined wing design was developed principally by Dr.stanford. Oblique Flying Wing One of the most unusual concepts for passenger flight is the oblique wing.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM Blended Wing Body The BWB design is intended to improve airplane efficiency through a major change in the airframe configuration. versions of the BWB has been designed with as few as 250 passengers and more conventional twin. podded engines.edu/aa241/intro/futureac. The thick centerbody accommodates passengers and cargo without the extra wetted area and weight of a fuselage. Orginally designed as a very large aircraft with as many as 800 passengers. studied by Robert T.

The figure above suggests how the time required for flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo varies with cruise Mach number. (The somewhat facetious Mach 8 aircraft requires extra time to cool off before passengers can deplane.) http://adg. Theoretical considerations suggest that the concept is well suited to low drag supersonic flight.stanford.edu/aa241/intro/futureac. Some of these are summarized below. new roles and requirements for aircrafrt may lead to new aircraft concepts. New Roles and Requirements In addition to new configuration ideas.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM NASA from 1945 through the 1990s. the need for passenger and cargo transportation grows as well. Many have speculated that growth in pacific rim travel may be the impetus for high speed aircraft development. while providing a structurally efficient means of achieving variable geometry. Pacific Rim Travel As global commerce continues to increase.html Page 7 of 10 .

designed as a communications platform. and vehicles such as the Proteus. very high altitude aircraft.edu/aa241/intro/futureac. Low Observables (B2 Bomber) http://adg.stanford. such as the Helios solar powered aircraft intended for atmospheric science and earth observation studies.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM Supersonic transportation (Boeing High Speed Civil Transport Concept) Ground Effect Cargo Tranport Concept Vehicles designed for missions other than carrying passengers include military aircraft with new constraints on radar detection (low observables).html Page 8 of 10 .

stanford. http://adg.edu/aa241/intro/futureac.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM Autonomous Air Vehicles (Pathfinder: a prototype for Helios solar UAV) Halo Autonomous Air Vehicle for Communications Services (an AeroSat) Finally a new class of air vehicles intended to provide lower cost access to space is under study. The nearterm future of such designs depends on the economic health of the commercial space enterprise and it presently appears that these concepts are not likely to be seen soon.html Page 9 of 10 .

stanford.html Page 10 of 10 . permitting very different solutions New objectives and constraints may require unconventional configurations Future progress requires unprecedented communication among aircraft designers. and computational specialists http://adg.Future Technology and Aircraft Types 10/09/2007 11:17 PM Access to Space Conclusions Improved understanding and analysis capabilities permit continued improvement in aircraft designs Exploiting new technologies can change the rules of the game. scientists.edu/aa241/intro/futureac.