Urban Air Mobility (UAM) aircraft development, enabled by Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), is transforming the aerospace industry by providing on-demand, affordable, quiet, and fast passenger-carrying operations in metropolitan areas. Designing and producing safe reliable UAM aircraft is particularly challenging given the relative infancy of electric propulsion for aeronautical applications, and that the complex aeromechanics associated with multiple proprotors and lifting/nonlifting surfaces interacting with each other and the airframe impacts fatigue, performance, control and flying qualities. As UAM aircraft concepts start to mature to the point that sub-scale demonstrators and proof-of-concept aircraft are being developed, there is a need for improved analysis tools, to support more detailed design, control law and control system development and testing. Unfortunately, the current generation of CFD-based high fidelity tools is unsuitable for many daily design and analysis applications due to computational cost, expertise requirements and setup level of effort. Conversely, many current design tools rely upon look-up tables or empirical relationships to capture complex interactional aerodynamics, or viscous and compressible effects, and become increasingly inaccurate in regions where the strong wake/component interactions occur or wakes trailed and shed from aerodynamic component becomes highly distorted. To directly address this market need, the team of Continuum Dynamics, Inc. and Georgia Institute of Technology proposes to build upon ongoing nonoverlapping work for NASA and the Department of Defense to develop a suite of mid-fidelity aeromechanics tools that directly address modelling assumptions and limitations of current and emerging design tools without being as costly as contemporary high fidelity overset CFD-based approaches.
The proposed effort supports several of NASA ARMD’s Strategic Thrusts ( #3 - Ultra-Efficient Commercial Vehicles and #4 - Transition to Low-Carbon Propulsion) and ongoing Advanced Air Vehicle Program (AAVP) projects (the Advanced Air Transport Technologies (AATT) project, the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP), and the Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technologies (RVLT) project. The proposed analysis tool will be able to assist in the design and evaluation of new configurations.
The proposed effort will produce a CFD-level mid-fidelity aeromechanics analysis tool for DEP, STOL, VTOL and UAM aircraft, in addition to advanced rotorcraft. Commercialization opportunities are anticipated from licensing the new modeling tools and providing support and engineering services in support of Uber Elevate, DoD’s Future Vehicle Lift and other current and future development projects