Design Optimization of a Regional Transport Aircraft with Hybrid Electric Distributed Propulsion Systems

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Virginia Tech

In recent years, there has been a growing shift in the world towards sustainability. For civil aviation, this is reflected in the goals of several organizations including NASA and ACARE as significantly increased fuel efficiency along with reduced harmful emissions in the atmosphere. Achieving the goals necessitates the advent of novel and radical aircraft technologies, NASA's X-57, is one such concept using distributed electric propulsion (DEP) technology.

Although practical implementation of DEP is achievable due to the scale invariance of highly efficient electric motors, the current battery technology restricts its adoption for commercial transport aircraft. A Hybrid Electric Distributed Propulsion (HEDiP) system offers a promising alternative to the all-electric system. It leverages the benefits of DEP when coupled with a hybrid electric system. One of the areas needing improvement in HEDiP aircraft design is the fast and accurate estimation of wing aerodynamic characteristics in the presence of multiple propellers. A VLM based estimation technique was developed to address this requirement.

This research is primarily motivated by the need to have mature conceptual design methods for HEDiP aircraft. Therefore, the overall research objective is to develop an effective conceptual design capability based on a proven multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) framework, and to demonstrate the resulting capability by applying it to the conceptual design of a regional transport aircraft (RTA) with HEDiP systems.

Hybrid Electric, Wing-Propeller Interaction, Design Optimization, Regional Transport, Aircraft Design