High-fidelity aerodynamic and aerostructural optimization of UAV propellers

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2023-08
Authors
Toman, Usama
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He, Ping
Hu, Hui
Lee, Dae-Young
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Aerospace Engineering
Abstract
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have gained popularity in both commercial and military applications, and their propellers play a critical role in the vehicle's performance. A more efficient propeller design can improve the UAV's overall efficiency and reduce operational costs. While computer simulations are often used to optimize propeller design, most techniques rely on low-fidelity models that may not provide accurate simulation results for detailed designs. This study presents a high-fidelity aerodynamic and aerostructural optimization framework that incorporates finite-volume computational fluid dynamics and finite-element structural dynamics solvers. Using the discrete adjoint approach and the OpenMDAO/MPhys open-source framework, we were able to handle fluid-structure interaction and its derivative computation, allowing for gradient-based optimization with a large number of design variables. The framework aims to minimize the power required for the propeller shaft while ensuring constraints related to thrust, mass, von-mises stress, and propeller geometry (e.g., thickness, volume, and curvature) are met. The optimization’s design variables include the shape variables (e.g. blade cross-sectional profile) and planform variables such as span and chord. The shape-only aerodynamic, shape and planform aerodynamic, and shape and planform aerostructural optimizations all yielded power reductions of more than 10%. All the constraints were satisfied. This research offers an effective solution for designing high-performance UAV propellers that could lead to cost savings and improved efficiency.
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