Winged Drone Gets Forward Flight Capability

Drones are pretty common in the electoronics landscape today, and are more than just a fun hobby. They’ve enabled a wide array of realtors, YouTubers, surveyors, emergency responders, and other professionals to have an extremely powerful tool at their disposal. One downside to these tools is that the power consumption tends to be quite high. You can either stick larger batteries on them, or, as [Nicholas] demonstrates, just spin them really fast during flight.

We featured his first tests with this multi-modal drone flight style a while back, but here’s a quick summary: by attaching airfoils to the arms of each of the propellers and then spinning the entire drone, the power requirements for level flight can be dramatically reduced. This time, he’s back to demonstrate another benefit to this unique design, which is its ability to turn on its side and fly in level flight like an airplane. It’s a little bizarre to see it in the video, as it looks somewhat like a stationary propeller meandering around the sky, but the power requirements for this mode of flight are also dramatically reduced thanks to those wings on the arms.

There are a few downsides to this design, namely that the vertical wing only adds drag in level flight, so it’s not as efficient as some bi-wing designs, but it compromises for that loss with much more effective hover capabilities. He also plans to demonstrate the use of a camera during spin-hover mode as well in future builds. It’s an impressive experiment pushing the envelope of what a multi-rotor craft can do, and [Nicholas] still has plans to improve the design, especially when it comes to adding better control when it is in spin-hover mode. We’d expect plenty of other drones to pick up some of these efficiency gains too, except for perhaps this one.

Continue reading “Winged Drone Gets Forward Flight Capability”

A Guide To 3D Printing Model Aircraft Wings

The exact airfoil shape of a wing has a massive effect on the performance and efficiency of an aircraft and will be selected based on the intended flight envelope. If you’re moving beyond foam board wings, 3D printing is an excellent way to create an accurate airfoil, and [Tom Stanton] provides us with an excellent guide to modeling wing sections for easy printing.

[Tom] used the process demonstrated in the video after the break to create the wing for his latest VTOL RC aircraft. It was printed with lightweight PLA, which can ooze badly when it stops extruding. To get around this, he designed the wings and their internal ribs to be printed in one continuously extruded line.

He wanted a wing that would allow a smooth transition from hover to forward flight, and used the Airfoil Tools website to find and download the appropriate airfoil profile. After importing the profile into Fusion 360, he created internal ribs in a diagonal grid pattern, with lightening holes running along the length of the wing. A cylinder runs along the core of the wing to fit a carbon fiber wing spar. The ribs are first treated as a separate body in CAD and split into four quadrants. When these quadrants combine with the outer shell, it allows the slicer to treat the entire print as a continuous external perimeter line using “vase mode“.

These steps might seem simple, but it took about 3 weeks of experimentation to find a process that works. It’s primarily intended for straight wings with a continuous profile, but it should be adaptable to tapered/swept wings too. A well-designed airframe is essential when pushing aircraft to the edge of efficiency, like solar-powered plane to fly overnight.

Continue reading “A Guide To 3D Printing Model Aircraft Wings”

Quick 3D-Printed Airfoils With These OpenSCAD Helpers

You know how it is. You’re working on a project that needs to move air or water, or move through air or water, but your 3D design chops and/or your aerodynamics knowledge hold you back from doing the right thing? If you use OpenSCAD, you have no excuse for creating unnecessary turbulence: just click on your favorite foil and paste it right in. [Benjamin]’s web-based utility has scraped the fantastic UIUC airfoil database and does the hard work for you.

While he originally wrote the utility to make the blades for a blower for a foundry, he’s also got plans to try out some 3D printed wind turbines, and naturally has a nice collection of turbine airfoils as well.

If your needs aren’t very fancy, and you just want something with less drag, you might also consider [ErroneousBosch]’s very simple airfoil generator, also for OpenSCAD. Making a NACA-profile wing that’s 120 mm wide and 250 mm long is as simple as airfoil_simple_wing([120, 0030], wing_length=250);

If you have more elaborate needs, or want to design the foil yourself, you can always plot out the points, convert it to a DXF and extrude. Indeed, this is what we’d do if we weren’t modelling in OpenSCAD anyway. But who wants to do all that manual labor?

Between open-source simulators, modelling tools, and 3D printable parts, there’s no excuse for sub-par aerodynamics these days. If you’re going to make a wind turbine, do it right! (And sound off on your favorite aerodynamics design tools in the comments. We’re in the market.)

Retrotechtacular: Forces Acting On An Airfoil

floating film title We’ve probably all experimented with a very clear demonstration of the basic principles of lift: if you’re riding in a car and you put your flattened hand out the window at different angles, your hand will rise and fall like an airplane’s wing, or airfoil. This week’s Retrotechtacular explains exactly how flight is possible through the principles of lift and drag. It’s an Army training documentary from 1941 titled “Aerodynamics: Forces Acting on an Air Foil“.

What is an airfoil? Contextually speaking, it’s the shape of an airplane’s wing. In the face of pressure differences acting upon their surfaces, airfoils produce a useful aerodynamic reaction, such as the lift that makes flight possible. As the film explains, the ideas of lift and drag are measured against the yardstick of relative wind. The force of this wind on the airfoil changes according to the acute angle formed between the airfoil and the direction of the air flow acting upon it. As you may already know, lift is measured at right angles to the relative wind, and drag occurs parallel to it. Lift is opposed by the weight of the foil, and drag by tension.

wind tunnel testing

Airfoils come in several types of thicknesses and curvatures, and the film shows how a chord is derived from each shape. These chords are used to measure and describe the angle of attack in relation to the relative wind.

The forces that act upon an airfoil are measured in wind tunnels which provide straight and predictable airflow. A model airplane is supported by wires that lead to scales. These scales measure drag as well as front and rear lift.

In experimenting with angles of attack, lift and drag increase toward what is known as the stalling angle. After this point, lift decreases abruptly, and drag takes over. Lift and drag are proportional to the area of the wing, the relative wind velocity squared, and the air density. When a plane is in the air, drag is a retarding force that equals the thrust of the craft, or the propelling force.

monometer tubesAirfoil models are also unit tested in wind tunnels. They are built with small tubes running along many points of the foil that sit just under the surface. The tubes leave the model at a single point and are connected to a bank of manometer tubes. These tubes compare the pressures acting on the airfoil model to the reference point of atmospheric pressure. The different liquid levels in the manometer tubes give clear proof of the pressure values along the airfoil. These levels are photographed and mapped to a pressure curve. Now, a diagram can be made to show the positive and negative pressures relative to the angle of attack.

In closing, we are shown the effects of a dive on lift as an aircraft approaches and reaches terminal velocity, and that lift is attained again by pulling slowly out of the dive. Remember that the next time you fly your hand-plane out the window.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Forces Acting On An Airfoil”