Aerodynamic and structural design of a small nonplanar wing UAV

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Aerospace Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Advisor: Aaron Altman


The overall air vehicle performance of a multiple lifting surface configuration has been studied with respect to both structural and aerodynamic considerations for a candidate mission similar to that of the AeroVironment Raven. The configuration studied is a biplane joined at the tips with endplates. More specifically, this study aims to determine if this particular nonplanar wing concept can meet the requirements of the mission for a small Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition UAV. The mission capabilities of small UAVs are constantly growing by implementing recent developments in miniature computers and peripherals, electronic sensors, and optical sensing equipment at affordable cost. The requirements for the mission profile of a small UAV using the aforementioned equipment are defined with an emphasis on the potential advantages that can be offered by the nonplanar concept wing under investigation. A structural analysis using the finite element software ADINA and an aerodynamic analysis based on wind tunnel experimental data and vortex panel code results are performed. The results, compared under varying assumptions specific to an equivalent monoplane and a biplane, suggest potential efficiency gains for the new configuration may be possible using the nonplanar wing configuration under explicit conditions. The results also show structural characteristics and not aerodynamics alone are critical in determining the utility of this nonplanar concept.


Drone aircraft Design and construction, Airplanes Wings Testing, Aerodynamics

Rights Statement

Copyright 2008, author