The project Aerodynamic and Structural Analysis and Optimization of Morphing Wings for Airborne Wind Energy Applications investigates different approaches to morphing of aerospace structures and its applicability to airborne wind energy (AWE) systems. The project is a follow-up of the CHIRP “Smart Airfoil”, which focused on the creation of adaptive structural systems, and successfully led to the design, wind tunnel test, and flight demonstration of a variable camber morphing UAV wing. The main goal of this project is to extend and apply the existing simulation and optimization techniques to AWE aircrafts and to develop adaptive structural systems improving the performance (specifically increasing the power production) of AWE systems.
The main challenges of applying the existing morphing approach and simulation tools to AWE applications are the significantly increased loads due to higher flight speeds, and the up-scaled wing dimensions required to achieve aerodynamic efficient systems, leading to generally thicker, stiffer, and therefore less deformable structures. Additionally, the presence of gusts, combined with the wide range of flight speeds the AWE system has to operate in, create a complex and demanding flight environment for which the vehicle has to be designed to operate with optimum efficiency.
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