Exploring Drone Aerodynamics With Computer Simulations
For decades, NASA has used computer models to simulate the flow of air around aircraft in order to test designs and improve the performance of next-generation vehicles. Researchers from NASA's Ames Research Center recently used this technique to explore the aerodynamics of a popular example of a small, battery-powered drone - a modified DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter. This drone relies on four rotors to generate enough thrust to lift it and any payload it's carrying off the ground. Simulations revealed the complex motions of air due to interactions between the vehicle's rotors and X-shaped frame during flight. The researchers added four more rotors to the vehicle to study the effect on the quadcopter's performance, and this configuration produced a nearly twofold increase in the amount of thrust. The findings offer new insights into the design of autonomous, heavy-lift, multirotor vehicles for uses such as cargo transportation.