A Computational Tool to Aid in the Teaching of Conceptual Design and Sizing

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Source

40th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting & Exhibit


Traditionally in aircraft design (capstone) courses, there is insufficient time to complete a single iteration through the design process. This provides students with knowledge of the specific domains for which they have undertaken project work (structures, aerodynamics, propulsion, etc.), but results in a very limited knowledge of the broader overall conceptual design and sizing process. Several aircraft design software packages are presently available, however they are much better suited to preliminary design than early conceptual design and sizing due to the requirement to begin the process with a baseline aircraft of the students' own design. In this paper, a graphical conceptual sizing program is proposed for Low Speed High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). This program can rapidly create validated default aircraft (in Single or Twin Engine) for the following configurations: Conventional, Canard, 2 and 3 Fuselage Conventional and Canard, Twin Boom, Flying Wing, Singe Fuselage Tandem, and 2 and 3 Fuselage Tandem Wing Aircraft.

The designer can change any of the geometric characteristics of the aircraft before proceeding with more detailed aerodynamic (Vortex Lattice + drag buildup), weight, structural, center of gravity, trim, and longitudinal stability calculations.

This program was created in a Visual C++ Windows environment enabling students to gain a more thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the Conceptual Sizing process. The program facilitates the rapid comparison of numerous available possible aircraft configurations. Use of this program can quickly provide an understanding of the most common "what happens if we change..." questions that frequently arise in conceptual aircraft design and sizing.


Permission documentation is on file.


American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Place of Publication

Reno, NV