Aerodynamic analysis of a blended-wing-body aircraft configuration

Ikeda, T 2006, Aerodynamic analysis of a blended-wing-body aircraft configuration, Masters by Research, Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Aerodynamic analysis of a blended-wing-body aircraft configuration
Author(s) Ikeda, T
Year 2006
Abstract In recent years unconventional aircraft configurations, such as Blended-Wing-Body (BWB) aircraft, are being investigated and researched with the aim to develop more efficient aircraft configurations, in particular for very large transport aircraft that are more efficient and environmentally-friendly. The BWB configuration designates an alternative aircraft configuration where the wing and fuselage are integrated which results essentially in a hybrid flying wing shape.

The first example of a BWB design was researched at the Loughead Company in the United States of America in 1917. The Junkers G. 38, the largest land plane in the world at the time, was produced in 1929 for Luft Hansa (present day; Lufthansa). Since 1939 Northrop Aircraft Inc. (USA), currently Northrop Grumman Corporation and the Horten brothers (Germany) investigated and developed BWB aircraft for military purposes. At present, the major aircraft industries and several universities has been researching the BWB concept aircraft for civil and military activities, although the BWB design concept has not been adapted for civil transport yet. The B-2 Spirit, (produced by the Northrop Corporation) has been used in military service since the late 1980s. The BWB design seems to show greater potential for very large passenger transport aircraft. A NASA BWB research team found an 800 passenger BWB concept consumed 27 percent less fuel per passenger per flight operation than an equivalent conventional configuration (Leiebeck 2005).

The purpose of this research is to assess the aerodynamic efficiency of a BWB aircraft with respect to a conventional configuration, and to identify design issues that determine the effectiveness of BWB performance as a function of aircraft payload capacity. The approach was undertaken to develop a new conceptual design of a BWB aircraft using Computational Aided Design (CAD) tools and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software. An existing high-capacity aircraft, the Airbus A380 Contents RMIT University, Australia was modelled, and its aerodynamic characteristics assessed using CFD to enable comparison with the BWB design.

The BWB design had to be compatible with airports that took conventional aircraft, meaning a wingspan of not more than 80 meters for what the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulation calls class 7 airports (Amano 2001). From the literature review, five contentions were addressed; i. Is a BWB aircraft design more aerodynamically efficient than a conventional aircraft configuration? ii. How does the BWB compare overall with a conventional design configuration? iii. What is the trade-off between conventional designs and a BWB arrangement? iv. What mission requirements, such as payload and endurance, will a BWB design concept become attractive for? v. What are the practical issues associated with the BWB design that need to be addressed?

In an aircraft multidisciplinary design environment, there are two major branches of engineering science; CFD analysis and structural analysis; which is required to commence producing an aircraft. In this research, conceptual BWB designs and CFD simulations were iterated to evaluate the aerodynamic performance of an optimal BWB design, and a theoretical calculation of structural analysis was done based on the CFD results.

The following hypothesis was prompted; A BWB configuration has superior in flight performance due to a higher Lift-to-Drag (L/D) ratio, and could improve upon existing conventional aircraft, in the areas of noise emission, fuel consumption and Direct Operation Cost (DOC) on service. However, a BWB configuration needs to employ a new structural system for passenger safety procedures, such as passenger ingress/egress.

The research confirmed that the BWB configuration achieves higher aerodynamic performance with an achievement of the current airport compatibility issue. The beneficial results of the BWB design were that the parasite drag was decreased and the spanwise body as a whole can generate lift. In a BWB design environment, several advanced computational techniques were required to compute a CFD simulation with the CAD model using pre-processing and CFD software.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
Keyword(s) Blended-Wing-Body Aircraft
Flying Wing
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