Aircraft structure mass estimation is a very important issue in aerospace. Multiple methods of different fidelity are available, which give results with varying accuracy. Sometimes these methods are giving a high discrepancy of estimated mass compared to the real mass of the structure. The discrepancy is especially noticeable in the case of small aircraft with a composite structure. Their mass properties highly depend not only on the material but also on technology and the human factor. Moreover, methods of mass estimation for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms are even less established and examined. The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss various methods of mass estimation.
The paper presents different procedures of mass estimation for small UAVs with a composite structure. Beginning from the simplest one, where mass is estimated basing on a single equation and finishing with a mass estimation based on finite element method model and three-dimensional computer-aided design model. The results from all methods are compared with the airworthy aircraft and conclusions are discussed.
Mass of flying aircraft was estimated with different methods and compared. It revealed levels of accuracy of the investigated methods. Moreover, the influence on structure mass of human factor, glueing and painting is underlined.
Mass of the structure is a key factor in aerospace, which influences the performance of the aircraft. Thorough knowledge about the accuracy of the mass estimation methods and possible sources of discrepancies in mass analyses provides an essential tool for designers, which can be used with confidence and allows for the development of new cutting-edge constructions.
There are very few comparisons of mass estimation methods with an actual mass of manufactured and functional airframes. Additionally, mass estimation inaccuracies based on technological issues are presented, which is seldom done.
The findings of the work give valuable insight into the design and manufacturing processes of structures, from which designers can benefit.
Mieloszyk, J., Tarnowski, A., Goetzendorf-Grabowski, T., Kowalski, M. and Goliszek, B. (2021), "Comparison of different fidelity mass analyses", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 93 No. 7, pp. 1229-1235. https://doi.org/10.1108/AEAT-02-2021-0037
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