Aerodynamic calculation of unmanned aircraft

Marcin Figat (Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland)
Tomasz Goetzendorf‐Grabowski (Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland)
Zdobysław Goraj (Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland)

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To provide an effective numerical method for analysis and design of aerodynamic characteristics of unmanned aerial vehicles basing on commercial package VSAERO.


Calculation was made by VSAERO package, which is based on a classical panel method enhanced on boundary layer method. Paper explains how to use efficiently VSAERO package, which utilizes advanced CAD techniques, in modern designing of unmanned aircraft.


During aerodynamic analysis of unmanned aircraft the computing cycle is repeated many times until the required accuracy is obtained and when the best performance of an aircraft is achieved. Design process depends on the number of iterations. If the preliminary configuration (the so‐called starting design point) is well selected and the aerodynamic analysis is completed in a relatively short time, then the overall design time will be shortened.

Research limitations/implications

The panel method is very useful tool in spite of different limitations. For example, the Reynolds number has to be sufficiently high, angles of attack and sideslip have to be small enough. Computational process is relatively fast and the accuracy depends on the geometry representation. The boundary layer included into the computational model improves the accuracy of aerodynamic calculations. This methodology is limited to subsonic and low transonic speeds.

Practical implications

A very useful source of computational information and patterns to follow, especially for engineering students and engineers dealing with aerodynamic of unmanned aviation. Surface panel geometry can be transferred from UNIGRAPHICS via IGES files or can be generated from scratch using SPING or PEP software.


This paper offers a practical help for designers planning to develop a new unmanned platform. VSAERO package appeared to be a very useful tool for aerodynamic calculation in the full cycle design activity. This software utilizes the panel method enhanced on a boundary layer model for determination of the fundamental aerodynamic characteristic of an arbitrary aircraft. Presented paper shows a very efficient way how to compute the aerodynamics necessary for design of a new MALE class UAV.



Figat, M., Goetzendorf‐Grabowski, T. and Goraj, Z. (2005), "Aerodynamic calculation of unmanned aircraft", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 77 No. 6, pp. 467-474.

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