Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lifting Bodies Are More Than Just Another Pretty Shape - Opinions on Aircraft Design

Lifting Bodies Are More Than Just Another Pretty  Shape - Opinions on Aircraft Design

There are many ways to look at aircraft design. Most of which are field dependent, why design for supersonic flight if your device will never climb above 500'? It would be cool thought, right? I digress, if you are designing for normal flight regimes you will be operating at an altitude with an engine power curve which will vary by altitude and temperature. Now, if you are designing in other regimes, you need to know where you can get small performance boosts where they are available.

Managing wing thicknesses is and use the concept of "wing tip thrust". By making tip vortices more manageable there is a significant reduction in overall wing drag. This "free" reduction in drag is called "wing tip thrust". Like this, there is another simple idea to take into account. If you can design a fuselage that is not pressurized with an essentially flat belly, you can play some shape games. These shape games can effectively make a Clark-Y airfoil. Now it is more complicated than this, but if you begin your mental experiments from this perspective, you can eek out some under-represented performance.

But how do he do it? It is all in the magic. If lift is generated by circulation of a lift envelope, that is created by the difference in pressure created by fluid moving around a shape. Why not generate lift around your fuselage? It will not get you 25% of your lift... but if your fuselage planform area is 15% of your wing area and you can get 40% efficient lift out of minding your p's and q's you could be looking at 6% more total lift. Yeah, you are right, this is all pie in the sky stuff. However, if you could generate 2-3% more lift for the length of your flight, you could reduce the angle of attack on your wings and trim out your drag. Reducing your drag means that you use less energy in the case of electric or less fuel in the engine.

Less fuel means that you can carry more, or fly farther. Nice. 1-2% may not be a lot if you weigh 4oz. . However, if you are looking at varying wind conditions or being able to react to changing conditions and you can play some games about fuselage profiles. Why not, it is not really so hard to get as much as 5-6% out of playing your profiles against each other. That makes for a good amount more flight time in rc. Not the 7min guys, but as you go for 20min... you get 21min. Yeah, it does not sound like much, but if it makes your fun go for 22min... It will be worth it.

Why do I pick Clark-Y? They have flat bottoms, reasonable thickness and a fast taper to the trailing edge. Construction-wise they are easy to construct, because you can lay them on a table. Their CL/alpha is pretty steep, so 1-2deg can get you something and if you can play with what level is, you can get a fuselage angle of attack to a point where you can make some dividends. Most importantly is that they do not separate their boundary layer fast. Most designs will never get to a critical angle of attack, drag will eat you alive if you fly your fuselage at such a high angle of attack.

We make lots of 60" fuselages these days with a mean 12" beam. That gets us an additional 4-5lbs of lift at take off and 1-2 lbs at cruise. Nothing to write home about, NASA will never give me a Ph.D. for it, but it does get me lots of "clever"s and "I would not have thought of that"s. Pretty high praise in engineering circles.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fuselage Design Schemes - Vertical Tails do not Make Your Ass End Look Better

Lots of things cross my mind when I start putting pen to paper on a new fuselage. Mostly, it is about needs to go inside, and then how to build it. Over the last few generations of this design, it has become clear that slow-speed, heavy lift (payload/fuselage <0.7) We start to see several key principles begin to precipitate. Today we will focus on the differences in aircraft balance schemes.

Aesthetically, I am not a vertical tail man. They are functional and in many designs they are necessary. My career began in the low-observability sphere. So a large perpendicular plate nailed to the end of your vehicle who is trying to hide invites bigger radar returns. In most of my training and experience, we get away from this with large sweep angle wings and oblique surfaces. Sometimes, these choices do impact performance. If you are working against sines of the angle, you will always have more surface area to get the same net effect.

Balancing the vertical surface weight and the total surface area is always a game. If you look through Jane's for modern high performance, low-observable aircraft, you will see a common theme of split tails. Two tails, let a designer get a net effect and still not have a large single vertical surface. Ok, yeah it weighs more sometimes this is necessary and even suggested.

These principles are not necessarily limited to high-performance  aircraft. Just trying to keep the sail-area down on the aircraft is important. Otherwise it is blown all over the sky like a potato chip in a hurricane. If you are trying to make a vehicle that can stay on station it is easy to fly a slow  constant angular speed turn with a bit of roll angle, rather than balancing a lot of rudder input and trying to fight the wind the whole time and flying search patterns. Sweep angle also lets designers move the center of pressure around for the wing alowing for different internal position management of work payloads.

Many designs on which I have worked use low angle wing tips instead of a vertical tail. Highy-swept low speed wings get most of their roll control from the wing sweep and large ailerons or spoilerons are goos at helping with pitch contro. One interesting solution is coined a "duckeron". I cannot vouch for the scientific nature of the name. A "duckeron" or even a "quackeron" is a surface that consists of a pair of  tip-mounted surfaces at the far end of each aieron. These surfaces open and increase the drag on the wing tip. This is a bit counter intuitive, unike spoilers which run along the span of the wing these are actuay on the trailing edge of the wing and allow for effective yaw control. Sweep helps increase the distance between the wing tip and the aircraft center of gravity. This is the moment arm distance used to calculate the force applied to yaw the aircraft.

It is a pretty clever idea and allows for reduced cross-section yaw control. On rc models and small UAVs the duckeron is a simple single-servo-per-side solution. Rather than only connecting a single surface to the servo arm, you use a pair of rods. As the arm swings pushing the rods away from the hing line opening the surfaces equally. However if there is a clearance issue, the ratio of the opening rates can be changed via a cam or simply varying the lengths of the rods. A shorter rod needs more arm sweep to move the surface through a given range. The air disruption over the wing would make the use of a spoiler less effective. There could be several reasons to use spoilers and ducks at the same time for different flight control cases.

You do have to take into account that the drag at the tip may be an unplanned load on your wing spar. One other kind of side-benefit of using ducks is that they act as airbrakes during landing, even as a counter-balancing yaw force during approach. As a counter-balance on approach you would pay a much steeper drag penalty than a rudder, but they woud be able to apply a much larger yaw force.

Touching Pee-pees in the Dark and Adventures in Airplane Bonding

Our first really big pane is about to come off of the line. I guess it is easy to see that I was slacking. Not really, just got side-lined by a bunch of stuff.

Today, I wanted to talk about the bonding experiences. We are pretty good with the cheap and cheerful 60min and 90min epoxies available from Loctite. In general, they are worthy of their cost. For the most part:

  •  they get it done
  •  are easy to clean
  • decent finish that is sandable, but micro-balloons help immensely
  • and wet chemistry does not rip the skin off of your hands
 The other side of the coin is that :

  • they are not super hard
  •  sometimes leave a sticky surface which needs hand washing a bunch of times to get the surface clean
  • cheap means heavy
  • in the warm, humid air of Florida sometimes the pot runs really fast.
It is exciting to see it melt through two cups and run epoxy all over your surface and drip down your leg. The steam is cute on a  100% humidity afternoon. Around here, it is not uncommon to see rising off of your sneakers, but it is exciting to see rising off of your freshly-laid skin. It still burns your skin ... boiling water is hot... If the cup gets to be hot to the touch, or the epoxy runs really fast then you only have a few more minutes before the epoxy fixes.

We have some other adhesives and layup chemistries used by the "pros". Ok, yikes. There are enough flames, warning symbols and ventilation requirements that we honesty did not have the facilities to use them. However, some basic tests show that the stuff from Aircraft Spruce is really hard and easy to sand. It stuck to everything , was hard to get off of skin, and 10:4 is not an easy ratio to eyeball. So it needs a scale and  a fan to pull air away. I can only say it must be best with vacuum-bagged molds and infusion systems.

I would suggest using either, just know what you are getting into. With any bonding system, rough your bond area with steel wool, clean your area with a clean cloth and alcohol. Cleaning with alcohol is to pick up any grease, dust, grime and hair. Test your bond between scrap pieces of material.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cool New Stuff At Our Zazzle Shop

Every drop helps the cause.

Thank you for your support.


make custom gifts at Zazzle