Development of a Variable Camber Compliant Aircraft Tail using Structural Optimization


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Virginia Tech


The objectives of the research presented in this thesis are the development of a seven degree-of-freedom morphing airplane and the design and integration of a variable camber compliant tail. The morphing airplane was designed and manufactured to study the benefits of large planform changes and flight control morphing. Morphing capabilities of each wing consist of 8 in. wing extension and contraction, 40° of wing sweep and ±20.25° of outboard wing twist in addition to 6 in. of tail extension and contraction. Initial wind-tunnel tests proved that for a large range of lift coefficients, the optimal airplane configuration changes to minimize the drag.

Another portion of this research deals with the development of a structural optimization program to design a variable camber compliant tail. The program integrates ANSYS, aerodynamic thin airfoil theory and the Method of Moving Asymptotes to optimize the shape of an airfoil tail for maximum trailing edge deflection. An objective function is formulated to maximize the trailing edge tip deflection subject to stress constraints. The optimal structure needs to be flexible to maximize the tip deflection, but stiff enough to minimize the deflection of the tip due to aerodynamic loading. The results of the structural optimization program created a compliant tail mechanism that can deflect the trailing edge tip with a single actuator ±4.27°.



Variable Camber, Method of Moving Asymptote, Structural Optimization, Morphing Airplanes, Compliant Mechanism