Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Raymond C. Maple, PhD


The static aeroelastic behavior of the Nighthawk mini unmanned aerial vehicle is examined using a combined experimental and computational approach. Three wings are examined. In order of increasing stiffness they are: a flexible wing, a stiff wing, and a fictitious rigid wing with zero deflection. Photogrammetry is used during wind tunnel testing to measure the average deflected shape of the flexible and stiff wings during flight. The independent variables during wind tunnel tests are angle of attack (ranging from −5.1° through 13.4°) and velocity, which is 20 mph, 30 mph, and 40 mph. Roll angle and yaw angle are control variables, held constant at 0°. The measured deflection of each wing is used to adjust the wing shape for computational fluid dynamics analysis. Solutions are obtained for the flexible, stiff, and undeflected (or rigid) wings using a steady-state viscous flow solver with a Spalart- Allmaras turbulence model. The flexible and stiff wings experience two forms of deformation during flight. They bend upward along the span increasing the dihedral, and the leading edge twists downward (wing washout). The amplitude of deflection is greatest for the flexible wing. As a result, the flexible wing is more stable, but also exhibits worse static aerodynamic performance. The rigid wing has the greatest lift (CL max = 1.29) and the highest lift-to-drag ratio ( L/Dmax = 10.2). Stall occurs first near the root for all three wings. None of the wings stall at the tip in the range of angles of attack tested. A separation bubble forms under the wing at angles of attack less than 8°. This separation decreases the overall lift. It is most prominent on the flexible wing.

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