DOI: 10.3390/aerospace11010017 ISSN: 2226-4310

An Unsteady Reynolds–Averaged Navier–Stokes–Large Eddy Simulation Study of Propeller–Airframe Interaction in Distributed Electric Propulsion

Omkar Walvekar, Satyanarayanan Chakravarthy
  • Aerospace Engineering

A conceptual framework is presented to determine the improvement in the aerodynamic performance of a canard aircraft fitted with distributed propellers along its main wing. A preliminary study is described with four airframe–propeller configurations predominantly studied in academic and commercial designs. The leading edge–based tractors and trailing edge–based pushers are identified as configurations of interest for the main study. Subsequently, a Navier–Stokes solver is used to simulate the flow using two numerical approaches–a modified steady-state actuator disk and an unsteady rotating propeller profile. Moving meshes with rotating sub-domains are used with a hybrid RANS-LES-based turbulence model while the actuator disks are modified to include viscous swirl effects. The preliminary study shows a local minimum in the change in CL and CD at 10∘ for the pusher and tractor configurations. The main study then demonstrates the outperformance of the pushers over tractors quantified using CL and CL/CD. There is a clear preference for the pushers as they increase the lifting capacity of the aircraft without disproportionately increasing the drag due to the flow smoothening by the suction of the pusher propellers over the main wing. The pushers also delay the separation of the boundary layer whereas the tractors are unable to prevent the formation of the separation bubble despite injecting momentum through their slipstreams into the flow. The results from the two numerical approaches are then compared for accuracy in designing DEP configurations for an airframe.

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