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High Altitude Long Endurance UAV Analysis Model Development and Application Study Comparing Solar Powered Airplane and Airship Station-Keeping CapabilitiesThere have been ongoing efforts in the Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch at NASA Langley Research Center to develop a suite of integrated physics-based computational utilities suitable for modeling and analyzing extended-duration missions carried out using solar powered aircraft. From these efforts, SolFlyte has emerged as a state-of-the-art vehicle analysis and mission simulation tool capable of modeling both heavier-than-air (HTA) and lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicle concepts. This study compares solar powered airplane and airship station-keeping capability during a variety of high altitude missions, using SolFlyte as the primary analysis component. Three Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) concepts were designed for this study: an airplane (Operating Empty Weight (OEW) = 3285 kilograms, span = 127 meters, array area = 450 square meters), a small airship (OEW = 3790 kilograms, length = 115 meters, array area = 570 square meters), and a large airship (OEW = 6250 kilograms, length = 135 meters, array area = 1080 square meters). All the vehicles were sized for payload weight and power requirements of 454 kilograms and 5 kilowatts, respectively. Seven mission sites distributed throughout the United States were selected to provide a basis for assessing the vehicle energy budgets and site-persistent operational availability. Seasonal, 30-day duration missions were simulated at each of the sites during March, June, September, and December; one-year duration missions were simulated at three of the sites. Atmospheric conditions during the simulated missions were correlated to National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) historical data measurements at each mission site, at four flight levels. Unique features of the SolFlyte model are described, including methods for calculating recoverable and energy-optimal flight trajectories and the effects of shadows on solar energy collection. Results of this study indicate that: 1) the airplane concept attained longer periods of on-site capability than either airship concept, and 2) the airship concepts can attain higher levels of energy collection and storage than the airplane concept; however, attaining these energy benefits requires adverse design trades of reduced performance (small airship) or excessive solar array area (large airship).
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Langley Research Center
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Ozoroski, Thomas A.
(Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc. Hampton, VA, United States)
Nickol, Craig L.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Guynn, Mark D.
(NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
February 3, 2015
Publication Date
January 1, 2015
Subject Category
Aircraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 526310.04.07.04
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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