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JOURNAL OF AIRCRAFT

Vol. 50, No. 2, MarchApril 2013

Aerodynamic Impact of Aspect Ratio


at Low Reynolds Number
Lance W. Traub
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona 86301

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DOI: 10.2514/1.C031980
An analytic study is conducted to determine the impact of aspect ratio on the efficiency of a wing at low Reynolds
numbers. Viscous effects in terms of airfoil sectional behavior are simulated. The behavior of two airfoils is
experimentally examined to extract parameters required for simulation. The analysis indicates that without the
inclusion of airfoil pressure drag, wing efficiency increases essentially unbounded with aspect ratio. However,
incorporating airfoil efficiency leads to the appearance of distinct peaks in plots of the range and endurance
parameters. Low airfoil efficiency is seen to favor moderate wing aspect ratios so as to minimize the sectional pressuredrag penalty.

Nomenclature
AR
b
CD
Cd
CDo
C Do

=
=
=
=
=
=

Cdo
CL
Cl
CL
Cl
c
D
e
Kp
k
L
max
n
q
S
U
W

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

aspect ratio
wingspan
finite-wing drag coefficient
sectional drag coefficient
finite-wing zero-lift drag coefficient
finite-wing zero-lift drag coefficient based
on integrated chord
sectional zero-lift drag coefficient
finite-wing lift coefficient
sectional lift coefficient
finite-wing lift-curve slope
sectional lift-curve slope
chord
drag
span or Oswald efficiency factor
slope of linearized drag polar, airfoil
constant
lift
maximum
exponent
dynamic pressure
planform area
flight velocity
weight
exponent, angle of attack
attainable leading-edge suction
taper ratio
viscosity
density
nondimensional spanwise coordinate

=
=
=
=
=
=

tip

Introduction

OR interpretation and ease of analysis, the drag coefficient for a


finite wing is commonly decomposed into two components. One
is assumed effectively constant and is constituted of primarily skin
friction (CDo for a symmetrical airfoil or CD min for a cambered
section). The other component is lift dependent (proportional to C2L )
and represents both the three-dimensional (3-D) inviscid drag (vortex
drag), as well as the sectional pressure drag. The sectional pressure
drag and the vortex drag are approximated as C2L ARe or
CL CLmd 2 ARe (cambered section), in which the span efficiency factor e incorporates the effect of spanwise load deviation
from elliptic as well as the loss of leading-edge suction corresponding
to airfoil pressure drag [13]. Examination of these terms would
imply that performance improvement (CD reduction) would be most
readily achieved by an aspect-ratio increase. For a given chord, this
would suggest a span increase. However, an increase in span has both
structural as well as profile-drag implications. Large [4] conducted a
study to establish the optimal planform, size, and mass of a wing. In
this study, the wing was assumed to scale along all three axes.
Relations are given, which suggest that a highly tapered wing may
prove to be an optimal compromise [4].
In an earlier paper [5], an analytic analysis suggested that the LD
and C32
L CD ratios increased with aspect ratio (although at a
diminishing rate) essentially unbounded. An examination of
Bramesfelds [5] formulation indicates the sectional variation of CD
(the airfoils pressure drag) with CL is not accounted for and is a
significant contributor to this trend. Consequently, in this paper, an
analysis is presented that accounts for the lift dependency of the
profile drag as well as sectional efficiency. Analytic relations are
derived that show variable dependencies so that the reader can gauge
the impact of the equation constituents. The relations may also be
used for preliminary design purposes. Evaluation shows the
appearance of distinct peaks for LD, dependent on the airfoil
efficiency. Two formulations are presented: fixed or variable
planform area. For the first method, the wing loading (WS) is
conserved. Thus, an increase in wingspan would decrease the chord
to conserve planform area. Consequently, the first analysis presented
would yield for the designer the geometry best suited to satisfy a
prescribed wing loading or area. For the second formulation, variable
planform area and weight are treated. Experimental measurements
for two airfoils are used to quantify relevant parameters required in
the analysis.

Subscripts
ave
i
max
md
r
ref

average
inviscid
maximum
minimum drag
root
reference

Received 30 May 2012; accepted for publication 23 July 2012; published


online 4 January 2013. Copyright 2012 by Lance W. Traub. Published by
the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission.
Copies of this paper may be made for personal or internal use, on condition
that the copier pay the $10.00 per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center,
Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923; include the code 1542-3868/
13 and $10.00 in correspondence with the CCC.
*Associate Professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department. Member AIAA.

Formulation
For a symmetrical or moderately cambered airfoil section, the drag
polar for an untwisted finite wing may be expressed as
626

627

TRAUB

CD  CDo 

C2L
ARe

(1)

The impact of sectional lift dependency (i.e., airfoil pressure drag)


may be estimated by modification to either term on the right-hand
side of Eq. (1).

CD  CDo 

C2L
 CDo 
ARe

AR

C2L
1
ei 1ARCL 

(10)

The attainable leading-edge suction is the ratio of the actual leadingedge suction divided by the maximum attainable, and may be
estimated as (using a small angle approximation) [2]

Leading-Edge Suction

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In this formulation, the effect of sectional pressure drag is


approximated as a loss of the axial force or the leading-edge suction
on the airfoil and is incorporated into the far-right term of Eq. (1).
However, an estimate for CDo showing its dependency on aspect ratio
and Reynolds number is needed. Assuming for generality a straight
tapered wing
AR  b2 S 

2b
cr 1  

(2)

 Cl Cd Cd min Cl  1 Cd Cl


in which Cd min may be assumed CDo unless a heavily cambered
airfoil section is used, or a wing that is twisted.
The finite-wing lift-curve slope may be approximated using
Helmbolds [6] equation:
Cl
CL  s
 
1

in which b  ARcr 1  2.


The average chord is given by
cave 

cr 1  
 bAR
2

CLLD max 

8
>
>
<

(13)

CLC32 CD  max

which integrates to

Evaluation of Eqs. (5) and (7) indicates negligible differences for


practical taper ratios (i.e., > 0.2). Thus, for simplicity, Eq. (5) will
be used in the subsequent analysis. Effects of taper are thus limited to
the inviscid (vortex) drag component through ei .
Recasting W  0.5U2 SCL such that
s
2W
U 
SCL

CDo

8
>
>
>
<

 9 2
4
>
>
>
 1
=
CL
 q

>
>
2W
>
>
1
>
k
: AR 3  >
;


by

ARei

(14)

Consequently, LD)max or C32


L CD )max may be estimated by
substituting either Eq. (13) or Eq. (14) into Eq. (12), and then
formulating the relevant ratio (i.e., LD  CL CD or C32
L CD ).
Sectional Drag Coefficient

An alternative approach to incorporating the effect of profile


pressure drag follows. The sectional drag coefficient incorporating
pressure drag may be estimated as [1]
Cd  Cdo  KpC2l

(8)

(15)

in which Kp may be extracted as the slope of the linearized drag polar


of the airfoil section. Using Eqs. (9) and (15), CD for the wing may be
written as

gives after substituting Eq. (8) into Eq. (5)


0 s1
1 2W A
 k@
CL AR

>
>
;

Similarly, the endurance parameter C32


L CD may be maximized
minimizing CD C32
L and solving for CL , with the result

(6)

(7)

9 1
>22
>
1  =

 q 


>
ei AR
CL
2W
>
1

:k AR
12

ct < cr 

2
AR

(5)


 

U c1
c1
t
r
C Do  k

  1ct cr 

(11)

To find LD maximum, the lift coefficient at which this ratio is


achieved can be found and substituted into Eq. (12). Finding the
minimum of DL gives

Note that bAR may be written as Sb. Consequently, for a fixed S an


increase in aspect ratio is achieved by increasing the span b. To
conserve S, this would be accompanied by a reduction in chord. Thus,
as aspect ratio increases, the Reynolds number drops in this
formulation.
If the average chord is not used as the characteristic length, C Do
may be integrated as [in which c  cr 1   ct ]
 Z1

U
C Do  k
cr 1   ct  d

1

2
AR

(4)

Now, approximate CDo as

Substituting Eq. (3) into Eq. (4) yields






U cr 1  
U b
k
CDo  k
2
AR

Cl
AR

in which the sectional lift-curve slope has been approximated


as 2rad. The drag coefficient may be written as [using Eqs. (9)
and (10)]
0 s1


1 2W A

1 
 C2L

(12)
CD  k@
CL AR
ARei
CL

(3)



U cave
CDo  kRe  k

Cl
AR

2
 s
 

1
s
C2L
B1 2W C
CD  k@
A  KpC2L 
CL AR
ARei
0

(9)

From [2], the drag-due-to-lift, including partial leading-edge suction


(which is incorporated into the span efficiency factor e), effects may
be estimated as

(16)

As before, CL CD )max may be readily estimated by reducing


Eq. (16) by CL and solving for the minima:

628

TRAUB

2
CLLD max

6
6
 6
4

1
22

Equipment and Procedure

7
Kp 
  q 7
7
5
1  2 k 1 2W
AR
1
ARei

(17)

which for a given aspect ratio yields the CL to fly at LD max.
Similarly, the CL for C32
L CD )max may be estimated as

CLC32 CD  max
L

82
2
94
3
>
>

>
<
=
2
1
7 Kp
6
 4  q

5
>
2
2ARe
2W
i >
>
;
: k 1 AR 3  

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(18)
Equations (17) and (18) in conjunction with Eq. (16) allow the
estimation of LD)max or C32
L CD )max.
Generally, Kp may be estimated more conveniently than as it is a
more familiar term in the community. As such, the relationship of
and Kp is of interest.
The sectional drag coefficient may be written as [2]
Cd  Cdo  Cl 1 

(19)

Equating this relation to Eq. (15) gives (letting Cl 2)


 1 KpCl  1 2 Kp
or

Kp  1 Cl  1 2

(20)

The bounds for these parameters are


 0 Kp  1Cl ; zero leading-edge suction;

To implement the analysis, data are required to quantify the


behavior of the wings airfoil section in terms of lift-curve slope and
drag-due-to-lift behavior. Such information may be ascertained
experimentally or numerically. In this paper, both approaches are
pursued. Consequently, an experimental study was conducted using
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Universitys low-speed 1 by 1 ft openreturn wind tunnel. This wind tunnel has a measured turbulence
intensity of 0.5% and jet uniformity within 1% in the core. The wall
boundary layer is approximately 5 mm thick. Force measurements
were taken using a low-range platform balance. The balance has a
maximum range of 43 N and a demonstrated accuracy, resolution,
and repeatability of 0.0098 N. Load-cell voltages were digitized
using a National Instruments USB-6009 14-bit A/D board. A
LabVIEW data-acquisition code was written to acquire and process
the load-cell outputs. Each data point represents the average of 1000
readings. Angle-of-attack setting ability is within 0.1 deg. The
Reynolds number, based on the chord, was varied from 40,000 to
225,000. The wind-tunnel velocity (and q) was measured using a
FlowKinetics LLC FKT 2DP1A-C multifunction meter that was
interfaced with the LabVIEW acquisition code using a serial
connection.
Two wings were designed in CATIA and then rapid prototyped
using Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Universitys rapid-prototyping
facilities, yielding acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic wing
representations. The chord of the wings was 101.6 mm. The wing
sections were a ClarkY and an SD7062. The ClarkY profile
was chosen due to its widespread use in the R/C community and
competitive performance at low Reynolds numbers [7]. The SD7062
section was investigated as it is a representative high-performance
low-Reynolds-number airfoil. The wings spanned the tunnel to
facilitate nominally two-dimensional flow. Wall corrections were not
applied.

common for thin sharp plates

Airfoil Characterization

 1 Kp  0; 100% leading-edge suction;

Figure 1 presents wind-tunnel data characterizing the performance


of the ClarkY airfoil. The significant boundary-layer improvement

sectional pressure drag is zero

ClarkY airfoil

0.40

1.4
1.2
1.0
0.8
Cl 0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
-0.2
-0.4
1.4
1.2
1.0
0.8
Cl 0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
-0.2
-0.4
1.4
1.2
1.0
0.8
Cl 0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
-0.2
-0.4

0.30

Re = 200k
Re = 225k

Cd 0.20
0.10
0.00
0.4
0.3

Re = 125k
Re = 150k

Cd 0.2

Re = 175k

0.1
0.0
0.4
Re = 40k
Re = 75k

0.3

Re =100k

Cd 0.2
Laminar Separation

-5

10
, deg

15

0.1

20

0.0
0.0

0.4

0.8
Cl

Fig. 1 Aerodynamic-performance summary for ClarkY airfoil.

1.2

1.6

629

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TRAUB

effect realized with increasing Reynolds number is clearly evident.


Reynolds-number impact is marked in the 40,000100,000 range. At
Re  40; 000, laminar separation is indicated by attenuated lift with
concomitant high drag. For Re > 100; 000, the Reynolds number is
seen to have a moderate impact such that the lift and drag plots remain
essentially invariant. Although this airfoil is cambered, the minimum
drag coefficient is seen to coincide with Cl 0. Consequently, the
minimum drag coefficient may be considered to represent CDo for an
untwisted wing.
Figure 2 shows a summary of relevant parameters summarizing the
aerodynamic behavior of this airfoil. Inputs for analytic simulation
(minimum drag coefficient, Kp, Cl , and ) are also presented. As
seen, increasing Reynolds number significantly increases Cl max ,
notably for Re < 100; 000, and is a consequence of pressure recovery
at high incidence being sustained by a turbulent boundary layer,
which thins as Reynolds number increases. The attainable leadingedge suction is also seen to rise rapidly with Reynolds number, and
then remains relatively constant at 0.8 for higher Reynolds number (a
value of 1 would indicate null pressure drag). Note that depending on
its presentation, may vary with the lift coefficient. Within the
framework of the current analytical theory, a single value for is
required. Thus, was established from Kp using  1 Kp Cl .
Kp, an indicator of the level of pressure drag for the airfoil determined
from the slope of the linearized drag polar, is seen to reduce markedly
with the initial increase in Reynolds number. This follows from the
appearance of successful boundary-layer transition effected through
a laminar transitional bubble for Re  75; 000 and higher [7]. The
sectional lift-curve slope Cl also increases with Reynolds number,
and then subsequently drops. The reduction in lift-curve slope is not
1.4
1.3

without precedent [8], and is commonly associated with disparate


displacement-thickness variation of the upper- and lower-surface
boundary layers causing the airfoil to behave as though it had camber
addition.
The bottom plot of Fig. 2 shows the variation of the measured
minimum drag coefficient with Reynolds number. The experimental
data are seen to be well approximated by a power-law curve fit. Also
shown on the plot are two lines indicating the drag-coefficient dependency commonly associated with a laminar (1Re 0.5 ) and turbulent
(1Re0.2 ) boundary layer [9]. Note that the curves were shifted to
coincide with the experimental data for the last Reynolds number
(i.e., 225,000). Agreement for Reynolds-number dependency is
suggestive of a laminar boundary layer down to Re  100; 000. This
is despite the observed presence of a transitional bubble over this
airfoil in this Reynolds-number range [7]. The turbulent boundarylayer curve shows too small a Cd variation with Reynolds number.
Included in this plot is an estimate using XFOIL of the predicted
drag-coefficient behavior of this airfoil. As seen, the numerical
prediction is in close agreement with that measured experimentally as
to shape, but with a vertical offset.
Figure 3 presents a similar data summary to that in Fig. 1 for the
SD7062 airfoil, for a more limited Reynolds-number range. Similar
trends are observed with a marked lift-and-drag-coefficient
improvement for Re 100; 000. A notable hysteresis loop is seen
at the higher Reynolds numbers. Figure 4 shows similar trends to
those in Fig. 2; however, with data for Re  40; 000 absent, the
performance improvements (or degradation for Re < 75; 000)
beyond this Reynolds number are not identifiable. The variation of
the minimum drag coefficient with Reynolds number is not as well
behaved as that observed for the ClarkY airfoil, and shows poorer
agreement with XFOIL. A comparison between Figs. 2 and 4 shows
the SD7062 airfoil as having lower minimum and pressure drag than
the ClarkY section.

Clmax 1.2

Evaluation

1.1

Using Eq. (20) yields equivalence between either formulation,


such that Eqs. (13), (17), (14), and (18) give the same result [exact, if
Cl  2 following from this simplification in Eq. (11)]. Consequently, due to the intuitive interpretation associated with bounds (0
to 1), this parameter will be used in the subsequent data presentation.
For evaluation purposes and clear trend extraction, the inviscid
Oswald efficiency factor ei was set to 0.9. This is not strictly representative as ei varies with aspect ratio and may decrease for high
aspect ratio [1] depending on the taper ratio. This variation is
moderate, with a rectangular wing generally showing the greatest
difference (15% change for an aspect ratio increasing from 2 to 30).
However, an analysis showed that calculating ei yielded results that
were negligibly different (with only magnitude being affected) to that
with the assumed ei . For design-study application, ei may be readily
estimated using a vortex-lattice simulation or similar approach. As
presented, the theoretical method is suitable for symmetrical or
moderately cambered airfoil sections constituting untwisted tapered
or rectangular wings.

1.0
1.0
0.8
0.6

0.4
0.2
0.0
0.20
0.15
Kp 0.10
0.05
0.00
0.12
0.09
Cl 0.06
0.03

Fixed Planform Area

ClarkY airfoil

0.00
0.12

Cdmin= 90.085 Re -0.664


Experimental Data

0.09

Xfoil
Turbulent BL

Cdmin 0.06

Laminar BL

Curves shifted
to coincide
with expt. data at
Re = 225,000

0.03
Cdmin= 90.250 Re -0.718

0.00

Fig. 2

50000

100000

150000
Re

200000

In this section, the planform area is conserved such that span


increases reduce the wing chord. Figure 5 shows the effect of the level
of leading-edge suction on the range and endurance parameters
based upon the ClarkY airfoil data (i.e., k  90.085 and
 0.664). The left column is associated with LD)max and the
right with C32
L CD )max. For  1 (no sectional pressure drag),
these parameters are seen to increase unbounded as reported in [5]. A
result that is not realistic as the airfoil will eventually stall. This is
indicated on the plots as the lift/stall limiter based upon data from
Fig. 1 and was taken as the point before the onset of massive drag rise.
Note that this is assuming equivalence between the finite wing and
airfoil data. Commonly, the finite wing CL max is assumed to be

250000

Modeling-parameter summary, ClarkY airfoil.

Data available online at http://web.mit.edu/drela/Public/web/xfoil/


[retrieved 10 May 2012].

630

TRAUB

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SD7062 airfoil

1.4
1.2
1.0
0.8
Cl 0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
-0.2
-0.4
1.4
1.2
1.0
0.8
Cl 0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
-0.2
-0.4

0.30
0.25
0.20

Cd 0.15
Re = 150k

0.10

Re = 200k

0.05
0.00
0.30
0.25
0.20

Cd 0.15

Re = 75k

-5

10
, deg

Re = 100k

0.10

Re = 125k

0.05

15

20

0.00
0.0

0.4

0.8
Cl

1.2

1.6

Fig. 3 Aerodynamic-performance summary for SD7062 airfoil.

approximately 90% of the two-dimensional value. As the selection of


this lift-limiter point is somewhat arbitrary, this discrepancy is less
germane. As drops, a clearly identifiable peak appears (bottom row
of plots). The peak migrates to lower aspect ratio and its magnitude
1.6
1.4
Clmax
1.2
1.0
1.0
0.8
0.6

0.4
0.2
0.0
0.05
0.04
0.03
Kp
0.02
0.01
0.00
0.12
0.09
Cl 0.06
0.03

SD7062 airfoil

0.00
0.09
Cdmin= 2312 Re -0.957

0.06

Experimental Data

Cdmin

Xfoil

0.03

Cdmin= 113 Re -0.756

0.00
0

Fig. 4

50000

100000 150000
Re

200000

250000

Modeling-parameter summary, SD7062 airfoil.

decreases as tends to zero. The cause of the behavior may be


elucidated through examination of the upper plots in Fig. 5. The lower
drag due to lift associated with tending to 1 drives the optimal CL to
higher values for a given aspect ratio than for lower (so as to
minimize the skin-friction contribution). As drops, the increase in
the drag-due-to-lift component [with respect to CL (i.e., for the same
CL , the drag due to lift increases as drops)] reduces the optimal CL
for a given aspect ratio. For C32
L CD , the drag due to lift is seen as the
largest drag component, while for LD CDo dominates. This follows
from the lower flight speeds, and thus higher CL values associated
with the minimum-power flight condition. The increase in liftdependent drag with aspect ratio stems from the higher required CL
for optimality.
The increase in CDo with Reynolds number is a consequence of the
problem formulation. For a fixed planform area, increasing aspect
ratio reduces the chord. A reduced chord decreases the Reynolds
number, and thus increases the skin-friction drag contribution.
Additionally, for a given vehicle weight, an increase in CL will
necessitate a drop in flight speed to maintain steady-level flight. Both
of these effects contribute to a reduction in Reynolds number with
aspect ratio (in which the chord reduction effect dominates for higher
Reynolds number). Consequently,  1 experiences significant CDo
due to the low Reynolds number (top-left figure). Figure 6 presents a
summary of the effect of on the required aspect ratio to achieve
maximized LD and C32
L CD (see Table 1). As drops, wing
performance reduces, with the level of attainable suction having
lesser impact for < 0.6. Lower aspect ratio is also favored as the
airfoils sectional pressure drag increases (reflected in diminishing ).
This is an intuitive result stemming from the need to minimize the
spanwise extent of the wing, and consequently, aspect ratio. Also
evident is that maximum LD favors lower aspect-ratio wings than
32
maximum C32
L CD . Required optimal CL values for CL CD )max
are higher than LD)max, thus the need to attenuate vortex drag
through high aspect ratio.
The effect of weight variation within the confines of fixed
planform area is examined in Fig. 7. Prescribed weights of 5, 10, and
20 N were evaluated. The attainable suction was set to 0.8 to match
that from the experimental measurements. Counterintuitively,
increasing weight is seen to be beneficial for both LD and C32
L CD .
This follows from the higher required flight speeds to support the
additional aircraft weight (as the wing area is fixed). An increase in q
drops the necessary lift coefficient (reducing lift-dependent vortex
and pressure drag) while increasing Reynolds number, and so by
lessening the skin-friction drag coefficient. The peak in LD occurs
at a similar aspect ratio for all three weights, while C32
L CD appears
unbounded due to the comparatively high .

631

TRAUB
300000

300000

L/D

250000

250000

200000

3/2

300000

/CD

300000

L/D

250000

250000

200000

200000

200000

Re 150000

Re 150000

Re 150000

Re 150000

100000

100000

100000

100000

50000

50000

50000

50000

0
0.10

0
0.30

0
0.06

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.08

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.25

CL

CD

CD 0.15
0.04

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

CD 0.10
0.02

0.10

0.02

/CD

0.04

0.20

0.06

3/2

0
0.20

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.15

CD

0.05

0.05

0.00
3.0
2.5

0.00
0.8

0.00
5.0

ClarkY airfoil
ei=0.9, W=9.81N
k= 90.085, = -0.664

4.0

2.0

0.00
1.4

ClarkY airfoil
ei=0.9, W=9.81N
k= 90.085, = -0.664

1.2

0.6

1.0

3.0

CL 1.5

CL 0.4

CL

CL

2.0

1.0

0.2

1.0

0.5
=1

0.0
20

Lift/Stall Limiter

0.0
30

= 0.8

0.6
0.4

= 0.4

0.2

= 0.2

0.0
8

Lift/Stall Limiter

0.8

0.0
6

= 0.0

= 0.6

20

0
0

10

20

10

Fig. 5

20

30

10

20

30

10

20

30

AR

AR

Effect of aspect ratio and attained leading-edge suction on the maximum range and endurance parameters, ClarkY airfoil.

Figure 8 shows the effect of a different airfoil section, the SD7062,


on maximum LD and C32
L CD . Considering the consistency of the
data, the XFOIL simulations were used to define the airfoil. Trends
are seen to be similar to the ClarkY section. However, the SD7062
airfoil yields better performance, although this is partly a consequence of using the XFOIL data, which may be expected to be
somewhat optimistic from a drag perspective. Figure 9 and Table 2
show a summary of data maxima as a function of . Once again,
trends are consistent, with lower aspect ratios favored as the airfoil
efficiency drops. For a thin flat plate, common for balsa gliders in
which is essentially zero, an aspect ratio in the 34 range would be

25

Lift/Stall Limiter

15

3/2

/CD
AR
10
5
0
0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

15
AR

12
L/D
AR

3/2

L/D, CL

/CD

6
Lift/Stall Limiter

3
0
0.0

0.2

0.4

Table 1
AR (LD)
14a
12
6
5
4
4

1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0

Data summary for ClarkY airfoil


LD)max
12.9
9.35
8.10
7.40
6.92
6.54

AR (C32
L CD )
5a
8a
14a
22
17
14

CL32 CD )max
9.26a
8.40a
7.14a
5.83
4.91
4.29

Data are lift/stall limited.

preferable for LD)max so as to minimize the impact of the high


sectional pressure drag.

ClarkY airfoil
ei=0.9, W = 9.81N
k= 90.085, = -0.664

20
CL

AR

AR

2
0

30

CL

10

3/2

L/D

3/2

L/D 10

/CD

/CD

15

CL

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CL

0.6

0.8

Variable-Wing Area

In the prior analysis, the planform area of the unmanned aerial


vehicle (UAV) was assumed constant, as was the wing loading
(WS), excluding Fig. 7. However, the impact of weight increase,
when the wingspan is increased, is of interest. The estimation of
weight increase due to sizing is not a trivial endeavor. This is
compounded by the manufacturing methods that may be employed in
a UAV. The wing may be solid foam, wrapped in a composite
material, and/or have internal structural members (spars). For the
purposes of the present analysis, the wings chord is assumed
constant. The wingspan may vary to alter aspect ratio.
It will also be assumed that the weight of the fuselage is fixed and
does not scale with the wing dimensions. For conventional aircraft,
examination of available data [10] suggests that the wing accounts
for approximately 1520% of the aircraft weight. Although this may
not be representative for a UAV, it will be assumed so, as little other
data are available.
An analytic analysis by Large [4] has suggested that the wing
weight of an aircraft may be estimated as

1.0

Fig. 6 Summary of aspect ratio and attained leading-edge suction


impact on the maximum range and endurance parameters, ClarkY
airfoil.

Data available online at http://adg.stanford.edu/aa241/structures/


weightstatements.html [retrieved 10 May 2012].

632

TRAUB
300000

300000

L/D

200000

200000

Re 150000

Re 150000

100000

100000

50000

50000

0
0.10

0
0.30

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.08

3/2

/CD

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.25
0.20

0.06

CD 0.15

CD
0.04

0.10

0.02

0.05

0.00
1.5

0.00
3.0

ClarkY airfoil
ei=0.9, = 0.8
k= 90.085, = -0.664

2.5

1.2

2.0

0.9

CL 1.5

CL
0.6

1.0

0.3

0.5

0.0
10

0.0
15

/CD
6

W = 10N

3/2

W = 5N

CL

L/D

Lift/Stall Limiter

12

W = 20N

3
0

2
0

10

20

30

10

20

30

AR

AR

Fig. 7 Effect of aspect ratio and vehicle weight on the maximum range and endurance parameters, ClarkY airfoil.

300000

300000

L/D

CL

3/2

300000

/CD

300000

L/D

250000

250000

200000

200000

200000

200000

Re 150000

Re 150000

Re 150000

Re 150000

100000

100000

100000

100000

50000

50000

50000

50000

0
0.04

0
0.12

0
0.030

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

250000

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.10

CD 0.02

0.08

0.020
CD 0.015

0.04

0.010

0.02

0.005

0.00
2.0

0.00
3.0

SD7062 airfoil
ei=0.9, W=9.81N
k= 113, = -0.756

1.5
CL 1.0

2.5

= 0.8

2.0

= 0.6

CL 1.5

/CD

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

CD 0.04
0.02

0.000
0.4

= 1

3/2

0
0.08

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.06

CD 0.06

0.01

CL

250000

0.025

0.03

0.00
0.8

SD7062 airfoil
ei=0.9, W=9.81N
k= 113, = -0.756

0.3

0.6

CL 0.2

CL 0.4

1.0
0.5

0.1

0.5
0.0
25

0.0
35

Lift/Stall Limiter

0.2

= 0.4

Lift/Stall Limiter

= 0.2

0.0
14

0.0
8

= 0.0

30

10

/CD

20

L/D 10

15

3/2

15

3/2

L/D

12

25

CL

/CD

20

CL

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CL

250000

250000

10

5
0

5
0

10

20
AR

Fig. 8

30

6
0

10

20
AR

30

10

20
AR

30

10

20
AR

Effect of aspect ratio and attained leading-edge suction on the maximum range and endurance parameters, SD7062 airfoil.

30

633

TRAUB

W wing W total S12 AR32 W total cAR2

Table 2

(21)

20
/CD 15
AR
10

3/2

5
0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

30
25

AR

20

L/D, CL

3/2

/CD

L/D
15
AR
10
5
Lift/Stall Limiter

0
0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

Fig. 9 Summary of aspect ratio and attained leading-edge suction


impact on the maximum range and endurance parameters, SD7062
airfoil.

1.0

200

0.8

n = 1.2

120

S, m2 0.6

n = 1.4

W, N
80

0.4

40

0.2

0
1.5

0.0
0.10

ClarkY airfoil
ei=0.9, Wref=9.81N, U = 20m/s,
Re = 202.247, c = 0.15m
k= 90.085, = -0.664

1.0

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.08

0.0
10

10

10
L/D

Black Line: CDo


Gray Line: Lift Dependent

0.0
0.80
0.70
0.60
0.50
CD 0.40
0.30
0.20
0.10
0.00
15

CL

3/2

Lift/Stall Limiter

0.2

/CD

0.00
15

/CD

0.5

0.0
15

L/D

ClarkY airfoil
ei=0.9, Wref=9.81N, U = 20m/s,
Re = 202.247, c = 0.15m
k= 90.085, = -0.664

1.0

0.02

n=2

0.4

2.0

0.04

n = 1.8

S, m2 0.6

CL 1.5

CD
0.5

n = 1.6

0.8

2.5

0.06

CL

1.0

280
240
200
W, N 160
120
80
40
0
3.0

n=1

160

10

3/2

0
0.0

5
All values for n = 1.8 and 2
lift coefficient limited

All values for n = 1.8 and 2


lift coefficient limited

0
0

10

20
AR

30

10

20
AR

C32
L CD )max
17.9a
13.46a
9.36
7.42
6.28
5.52

excessively low bound for weight (structural reinforcement may be


needed to cope with the larger moments associated with aspect-ratio
increase), whereas n  2 would be excessive (as it would represent
geometry scaling along three axes, not only spanwise as assumed).
To implement variable weight, Eq. (22) may be substituted into
Eqs. (1214) or (1618) to give the maximum LD and C32
L CD for
the aspect ratio. An initial examination of the impact of variable
weight indicated that such an approach would drive the solution to
excessively high flight speeds (approaching the compressible
regime) that are not feasible for small UAVs. This is especially
prominent for LD)max as n 2. Consequently, the effect of weight
will be examined by fixing q such that CL is simply determined from
steady-level flight equilibrium conditions for the associated weight
and planform area. Thus, the values for LD and C32
L CD are not
maximized for the aspect ratio.
Figure 10 presents a summary of results for variable area with
concomitant weight increase. The reference aspect ratio and weight
were set at 1 and 9.81 N, respectively. The flight speed was set at
20 ms (a reasonable value for a small UAV) such that q  240 Pa.
The airfoil chord was also fixed at 0.15 m, thus wing-size increase
was in one dimension (spanwise). Although this may not be entirely
realistic, it is germane to trend elucidation. The weight exponent n is
set variable ranging from 1 to 2, encompassing a linear weight
(n  1) increase to that suggested by Large [4] (n  2) and
representative for 3-D wing growth. Weight is seen to grow rapidly
with aspect ratio. Within the evaluated aspect-ratio range, LD and
C32
L CD show peaks for n  1, and then subsequently 1.6 to 2 (not
1.2 and 1.4). Initially (low aspect ratio), an increase in area reduces
CL such that the drag due to lift is attenuated. As aspect ratio increases
beyond approximately 10, the concomitant increase in weight tends
to overpower the area increase for n 1.4 such that CL starts to rise,
as does the drag due to lift. The increase in LD and C32
L CD for
n  1.2 and 1.4 stems from the requirement that the lift  weight.
As an example, consider LD  Wq CD. Here, q is fixed. If the rise

25
CL

AR (CL32 CD )
10a
25a
27
18
14
12

Data are lift/stall limited.

Lift/Stall Limiter

CL

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30

LD)max
23.28
15.74
14.05
13.04
12.32
11.73

in which n  2 is consistent with Larges [4] analysis, and n  1


gives a linear weight increase that could be realized by simply
extending the wing without any structural modification. While
Eq. (22) may be oversimplistic, it does provide a systematic approach
to explore the impact of structural-weight increases. Considering the
construction of typical UAV wings, n  1 may represent an
SD7062 airfoil
ei=0.9, W = 9.81N
k= 113, = -0.756

1
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0

AR (LD)
27a
8
4
3
3
3

For the simple wing geometries of interest (rectangular wings),


S12 AR32 may be expressed as cAR2 . An initial reference total
weight W ref and aspect ratio ARref will be assumed. The fuselage
weight will be set at 85% of this initial reference weight and invariant.
Consequently, for any aspect ratio, the weight may be generalized and
estimated as


AR n
W  0.85W ref  0.15W ref
(22)
ARref

Data summary for SD7062 airfoil

30

10

20
AR

30

10

20

30

AR

Fig. 10 Effect of variable weight and aspect ratio on the range and endurance parameters, q  240 Pa, ClarkY airfoil. ARref  1, W ref  9.81 N

634

TRAUB

in weight exceeds the corresponding CD increase, the ratio will


increase. As n increases, the peak of LD and C32
L CD shifts to
lower aspect ratio to mitigate the weight increase and the attendant
high required CL values, and thus drag due to lift. The estimates of
LD and C32
L CD for n  1.8 and 2 are presented for completeness.
However, the required CL values are not achievable, thus the aircraft
could not sustain level flight.

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Conclusions
An analytic investigation was conducted to establish the effect of
wing aspect ratio on performance at low Reynolds number. The effect
of airfoil pressure drag was accounted for using a leading-edge
suction approach. To support the study, experimental measurements
were recorded to quantify the behavior of two airfoils as affected by
Reynolds number. The analysis initially was implemented within the
framework of a constrained planform area and weight. If airfoil
pressure drag was neglected, LD and C32
L CD increased without
bound. Including the effects of pressure drag yielded the appearance
of distinct peaks in LD and C32
L CD , which migrated to lower
aspect ratio as the airfoil efficiency dropped. Incorporating the effect
of variable-wing weight showed performance peaks that depended on
the rate at which the weight was set to increase.

Acknowledgment
The author would like to thank Thomas Nix and Kenneth Toro for
performing the wind-tunnel tests.

References
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