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Designing Next-Generation Aircraft via High-Fidelity Computational Models and Optimization

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NextGen Airliners (Designing Next-Generation Aircraft via High-Fidelity Computational Models and Optimization)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Air transportation is a crucial contributor to the world economy, and thus its continued growth is essential. However, environmental impact and the increase in fuel prices make sustainable aviation a challenge. To address this challenge, we developed state-of-the-art computational tools for the design optimization of next-generation airliners with unprecedented fuel efficiency. We achieved this by leveraging the expertise of the researcher on high-fidelity computational design of aircraft, together with Airbus’ vast experience in practical aircraft design, and the network of academics at ISAE as well as researchers at ONERA.

The objectives of the action were to:

1. Disseminate knowledge state-of-the-art computational tools for aircraft design optimization within ISAE and Airbus, and more broadly within the EU.

2. Gain a better understanding of the practical considerations in aircraft design

3. Implement these practical considerations on the computational aircraft design tools so that they yield results usable by the industry

4. Explore new aircraft designs using these new computational tools.
To achieve the above objectives, the research effort started with the evaluation of the numerical simulations required for wing design. Wing performance required and understanding of both the aerodynamics and the structures disciplines, and their coupling. The action involved the application of models that coupled both of these disciplines with tools that perform the automatic optimization of wing shape and structural sizing. Although efficient numerical methods have been developed in academia that can perform this automatic optimization efficiently, the value of these results has yet to be vetted by the aircraft industry. Part of the action involved adding the missing components required to obtain practical designs.

At ISAE, where the beneficiary was hosted, he started collaborating on a few different projects that are ongoing. In collaboration with the action host and one of his students, they investigated the Multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) of a scaled aeroelastic flight demonstrator.

Another collaborating focused on using some of the wing design tools mentioned above to the design optimization of a high-performance sailing. Yet another collaboration studied the design of a blended-wing body aircraft. Both ISAE and the host benefited from the many technical exchanges with other faculty.

The beneficiary took advantage of existing collaborations of ISAE with ONERA. This resulted in research efforts in three different topics: new techniques for surrogate modeling applied to aircraft design, a new optimization framework for aircraft design, wing aerodynamic shape optimization using gradient-free methods. Additionally, the beneficiary advised for the European projects AGILE and AMEDEO in which ONERA is participating.

The beneficiary also worked with the newly established IRT (Institut de Recherche Technologique) on a project that resulted in new MDO approaches for real-world aircraft design projects that also involves Airbus.

The beneficiary made several visits to Airbus in Toulouse, and gave a short course at Airbus in Filton, UK. The beneficiary gave 16 presentations, workshops or short courses throughout his stay at ISAE, ONERA (multiple sites), Airbus (multiple sites), Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, Dassault Aviation, Ecole Polytechnique the Paris, University of Bristol, Instituto Superior Tecnico, Institut Clément Ader, and ENSEEIHT.

The research performed started an effort that is ongoing and is expected to make a lasting impact at Airbus by implementing developing new computational tools for the design of next-generation aircraft. One overarching conclusion is that while the computational tools developed in academic setting are efficient, they need to be adapted towards the industrial workflow and setting. In particular, we developed a process for performing the design optimization of scaled flight demonstrators needed by industry to test new concepts where aerodynamic-structural coupling is important.
The new numerical techniques developed have been shown to enable a faster design cycle for new aircraft projects and other engineering design applications.

One area that we progressed beyond the state of the art was the development of a new approach to designing scaled flight demonstrator aircraft. Classic aircraft design optimization focuses on performance maximization. However, scaled flight demonstrators require instead similarity between the demonstrator and the real aircraft. To this end, we developed a new methodology that uses numerical optimization to maximize the similarity in the aeroelastic characteristics, in collaboration with ISAE and ONERA researchers. The aeroelastic models were shown to be accurate, and we demonstrated that the approach provides useful designs. The impact of this project is that aircraft companies now have a way to design flight demonstrator that are more realistic and useful.

In another collaboration with ISAE and ONERA, we explored the use of a new numerical optimization algorithm to a wing aerodynamic shape optimization benchmark problem. The approach has shown promise on this problem, and we are currently broadening the scope of the study. The impact of this project is that this new optimization algorithm has the potential to find better results than classic algorithms.

Airbus is particularly interested in new multidisciplinary design optimization architectures and numerical methods that are suitable for the industrial design process. Several such architectures have been developed in academia, but they were found not to be suitable for industry. In addition, the existing benchmark problems do not adequately represent the industrial aircraft design process. To address this, we started collaborating with IRT to develop scalable benchmarks that are easy to implement. The impact of this development is that the solution of this new scalable benchmark problem has the potential to yield insights into the relative merits of the various numerical methods for multidisciplinary design optimization.

Finally, the dissemination of state of the art techniques for MDO left considerable knowledge at ISAE, ONERA, IRT and Airbus, and also at other institutions in Toulouse, Paris, and UK. I hope this knowledge inspires future research, especially the younger researchers that I met.

All these impacts relate to the broader beneficial societal impact of having more efficient transport aircraft, resulting in lower environmental impact and lower cost.
High-fidelity aerostructural optimization of a commercial transport aircraft
Design optimization framework for a flight demonstrator