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Term project for MAE 551 Airfoil Theory

Kiran Ramesh

Importance of Unsteady Aerodyncamics

The first attempts at flight focused on flapping wings. The concept of separating lift and thrust generation led to fixed-wing aircrafts. While these have been successful for human-carrying flight, they are unsuitable for flight at low reynolds numbers .

Ref 1

Low reynolds number flight has evoked a great deal of interest lately for the development of micro air vehicles and to understand the mechanisms of bird and insect flight.

Lockheed Martin Micro Star

Problems faced by conventional aircraft at low Re regimes : Laminar separation bubbles Difficulty in causing the flow to transition from laminar to turbulent Inefficiency caused by inability to include large propellers, etc.

Advantages offered by flapping wings

Flapping flight results in angle of attack being changed constantly Downwash caused by the vortices generated helps keep B.L attached.

High maneuverability - Since stall is prevented by effect of downwash, high angles of attack are possible.

Flapping motion produces lift as well as thrust.

Eg. For a plunging motion, the net freestream velocity seen by the airfoil is as shown below. The resultant force has lift and thrust components. Though net lift over the plunging cycle would be zero, thrust would be a positive value. Though large aircrafts can use propellers for thrust, this would greatly improve the performance for small aircrafts.

Fig from

Research in Unsteady Aerodynamics

Study in unsteady aerodynamics has primarily been motivated by research in aeroelasticity to reduce/eliminate undesirable effects such as flutter and gusts. Theoretical models like theodorsens theory, indicial response etc. provide a foundation on which unsteady aerodynamics modeling can be based. The assumptions made in these theories however, are clearly violated at low Re flows. Computational modeling based on the Navier-Stokes equations, while taking the low-Re effects into account is extremely expensive and is not suitable for design purposes. Strip theory, vortex lattice methods, blade element theory are some techniques used to create simpler models Data collected from birds and insects are useful in understanding some of the complexities involved.

Characteristics of an Unsteady Problem

Reduced Frequency Degree of unsteadiness

quasi-steady unsteady dominated by unsteady effects Reduced Time Relative Distance travelled by the airfoil through the flow in terms of airfoil semi-chords during a time t

Used in transient problems where relative freestream velocity cannot be taken to be a constant.

Quasi-Steady Thin airfoil Theory

Unsteady terms in governing equations are neglected.

Plunging/Pitching motion of the airfoil is taken into account by altering the effective angle of attack and incorporating the effect of pitch rate.

Inviscid Solution Does not take effect of shed wake into account Does not take apparent mass into account

Theodorsens Theory
The airfoil and wake are represented by a sheet in the same plane. The downwash on the airfoil surface caused by the wake is solved subject to Kutta condition and conservation of circulation.

Apparent mass Effect

Theodorsens function affects the circulatory part of the lift in accordance with the reduced frequency of the problem.

Inviscid solution, valid only for small perturbations. Only applicable to harmonically oscillated airfoil. Attached flow is assumed

Wagners Indicial Response

Can be used to solve for arbitrary changes in angle of attack. Time-domain solution. k is an ambiguous parameter. Reduced time takes nonsteady value of velocity into account.

Lift starts at 50% and asymptotically approaches steady value due to shed vortex

Response to arbitrary loads are obtained through superposition of indicial responses using the duhamel integral. Circulatory part of lift coefficient for an arbitrary motion is given by,

Apparent mass contribution is proportional to instantaneous motion. The above integral can be solved numerically using a recurrence method or by integrating for simple forcing functions.

Challenges in unsteady aerodynamic modelling

Computational(Navier-Stokes Solvers) and Experimental approaches give information about a particular scenario. However, this is not useful for design purposes, theoretical models are required. Though plenty of flapping flight data of birds and insects has been collected and analyzed by biologists, zoologists these are usually quasisteady models developed for particular scenarios (Not generic)

Emulating bird flight has not been very successful because apart from then numerous factors that complicate the aerodynamics, birds also extensively use aerodynamic-structural interaction(aeroelasticity) to improve efficiency.

Scope of Research
The thrust in research on unsteady low-re flows is currently being provided by the challenge of developing micro air vehicles

Ucal Berkeley MicroBat

DelFly (TU Delft)

Theodorsen and Wagner theories are the stepping stones upon which more generic theoretical models for unsteady flows are being developed. Viscous effects which are important at low reynolds numbers have to be accounted for. Corrections have to be made to justify the assumptions made in these theories(Such as co-planar wake, flat plate..) If we are to try and emulate the flight of birds, these theories must be extended to a flexible airfoil.

Since unsteady flows are among the least explored areas in aerodynamics, it provides a rich field of research Hovering, perching, gust response etc.

References :
1. Fixed and Flapping Wing Aerodynamics for Micro Air Vehicle Applications, edited by T. J. Mueller 2. Leishman, J. G., Principles of Helicopter Aerodynamics, Vol. 12 of Cambridge Aerospace Series, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, UK, 2000. 3. Katz, J. and Plotkin, A., Low-Speed Aerodynamics, Vol. 13 of Cambridge Aerospace Series, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, UK, 2nd ed.