A Higher-Order Free-Wake Method for Aerodynamic Performance Prediction of Propeller-Wing Systems

Open Access
Cole, Julia A
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 28, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Mark David Maughmer, Dissertation Advisor
  • Mark David Maughmer, Committee Chair
  • Sven Schmitz, Committee Member
  • Edward Smith, Committee Member
  • Gul Kremer, Outside Member
  • Goetz Bramesfeld, Special Member
  • Aerodynamic analysis
  • free-wake method
  • propeller-wing interaction
A new higher-order free-wake (HOFW) method has been developed to enable conceptual design space explorations of propeller-wing systems. The method uses higher order vorticity elements to represent the wings and propeller blades as lifting surfaces. The higher order elements allow for better force resolution and more intrinsically computationally stable wakes than a comparable vortex-lattice method, while retaining the relative ease of geometric representation inherent to such methods. The propeller and wing surfaces and wakes are modeled within the same flow field, thus accounting for mutual interaction without the need for empirical models. The method was shown to be accurate through comparisons with other methods and experimental data. To ensure the method is capable of capturing an unsteady lift response, it was compared with a Kussner function approximation of the change in two-dimensional lift due to a sharp-edged gust. This study showed excellent agreement with an average error in the HOFW lift response of less than 3% from 0 to 10 semi-chords, but required high time and space resolution. The time-accurate lift response of a propeller-wing system as predicted with the HOFW method was then compared with with fully unsteady CFD. These results showed that the HOFW method can identify the peak frequency and general amplitude of the lift oscillations at high resolution. Due to the high resolution requirements, this mode of analysis is not recommended for use in design studies. Time-averaged results found using the HOFW method were compared with experimental propeller, proprotor, and propeller-wing system data, along with two semi-empirical methods. The method matched experimental propeller efficiencies to within 4% for lightly loaded conditions. Increases in lift coefficient due to interaction with a propeller for a series of wings as analyzed with the HOFW method matched the average of those predicted with two semi-empirical methods with an average of 6.5% error for a lightly loaded propeller case. A comparison of HOFW predictions of lift for a more non-conventional propeller-wing system with experimental results over a range of angles of attack showed an average difference of 0.04 in lift coefficient. For this system, predictions in thrust and torque also matched experimental results within 5% over a small angle of attack range (+/- 5 degrees). The method was less successful at predicting the magnitude of drag in comparison with experimental results, but was capable of qualitatively matching trends in drag, both with changes in angle of attack and for variations in design. Finally, two design studies were conducted to show the practical utility of the method: an investigation of the twist distribution on a large civil tiltrotor wing and an investigation into propeller rotation direction and vertical location on a distributed electric propulsion vehicle. The studies showed that the method is capable, fast, accurate, and robust for performance prediction of propeller-wing systems, and thus appropriate for use in design-space exploration.