Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Student Collaborates on Award-Winning Paper

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Urban air mobility aircraft, which take off and land vertically, will one day go from concept to reality, but a number of technical questions remain. How many passengers does it make sense to design these planes to carry? How fast should they fly and how powerful should their engines be to carry that many occupants at that speed? How does aircraft size increase with distance traveled? Also, could a hybrid design with a battery and also a combustion propulsion system be more advantageous than using a purely electric vehicle, depending on the distances travelled?

These and other questions were explored by Imon Chakraborty, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, and Aashutosh Mishra, doctoral student in aerospace engineering, in their award-winning research paper, “Sizing and Analysis of a Lift-Plus-Cruise VTOL ( vertical take-off and landing) Aircraft equipped with electrified propulsion systems.

The paper was presented earlier this year at the AIAA AVIATION Forum in Chicago between June 27 and July 1. It received the “Best Paper” award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Electric Aircraft Technology Technical Committee at its recent conference in Chicago. The AIAA is the professional engineering society for aerospace engineers. The award-winning article is available here. Recently, this work was also accepted as an archival article in the AIAA Journal of Aircraft. The revised version of the article is available here. Chakraborty, director of the Vehicle Systems, Dynamics and Design Laboratory (VSDDL), summarized some of the findings.

“Our study shows that depending on the level of battery technology, if the distance flown is short enough, it might make more sense to design an all-electric (battery-powered) aircraft for this mission,” he said. declared. “But given current battery technology, beyond a certain threshold of distance flown, the all-electric aircraft would become too heavy, and it would make more sense to design a hybrid-electric or turbo-electric version. these two alternatives, electrical energy is used for propulsion, but in a different way.In the hybrid-electric design, electrical energy generated by a combustion gas turbine engine and electrical energy supplied by a battery work together to propel the aircraft. In the turbo-electric design, all electrical energy used for propulsion is generated entirely by the gas turbine and the batteries are not used for propulsion. Our paper has identified the threshold criteria for these designs.

Chakraborty said the award is further validation of the work done at VSDDL.

“We performed this research using a tool we developed in-house called the Parametric Energy-based Aircraft Configuration Evaluator, or PEACE,” he said. “This is the second Best Paper Award we have received for work with PEACE.”

He also spoke about the importance of AIAA technical conferences for students and young professionals.

“At these conferences, there are attendees who are affiliated with urban air mobility companies, and we get probing questions from them,” he said. “It’s a very exciting place for students like Aashutosh and very exciting for the lab as well, because these industry representatives are going to take note of where these people are coming from. For a student, it’s all about timing. You have to work on good search when it’s popular. Graduate students like Aashutosh, who work on urban air mobility vehicles, are at the right time in this wave of interest. They do a good job and there is a good chance that they can be integrated into this segment of the industry when they graduate.

Mishra, a graduate research assistant at VSDDL and recent winner of the AIAA Luis de Florez Graduate Award in Flight Simulation, said he hopes to one day use his experience at Auburn Engineering and work with take-off and landing aircraft. verticals for a career in the industry. It aims to develop a unified vehicle design and simulation framework that integrates aircraft stability and control assessment into the design iteration. In the next step, a real-time flight simulation of the developed concept can be performed to better understand the dynamic behavior of the vehicle during flight.

“It’s very gratifying to know that the work I’ve done in the lab is recognized under the umbrella of a great organization like the AIAA,” said Mishra. “Receiving recognition from this organization where people believe in what we do is very motivating and reassures me that our work is valuable to the community. It is an honor for me to be recognized for the work I have conducted in the area of ​​urban air mobility vehicle model development and simulation, and I feel inspired to contribute to the best of my ability to bridging the gap between a conceptual design and actual flight through real-time sizing and flight simulation studies.

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