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Conceptual Design of a Tiltduct Reference Vehicle for Urban Air MobilityNASA is establishing a fleet of conceptual air vehicle designs to support research and development for Urban Air Mobility (UAM). This fleet of vehicles will enable examination of the sensitivity of UAM vehicle designs to technology assumptions, identify key research and development needs for UAM aircraft, and provide the UAM community with reference vehicles that are publicly available and based upon known assumptions. To date, five six-passenger reference vehicles have been published: a quadrotor, a side-by-side, a lift-plus-cruise, a single-main-rotor helicopter, and a tiltwing. To increase the breadth of vehicle technologies encapsulated in the fleet of NASA UAM reference vehicles, this paper establishes a tiltduct vehicle as an addition to the fleet. The fleet will continue to evolve as future analyses and trade studies are performed.

The tiltduct reference vehicle has six tilting ducted proprotors. This paper describes the initial configuration downselection; discusses ducted proprotor design rules of thumb as they applied to the conceptual design of the reference vehicle; describes the vehicle sizing, trade studies, and tuning of models performed; and finally, compares the resulting tiltduct vehicle against the other six-passenger NASA UAM reference vehicles. The high-level analyses performed for this study did not indicate significant differences in performance between the tiltduct and tiltwing reference vehicles, and so vehicle performance alone may not be a key driver in the selection of a tiltduct vehicle over a tiltwing vehicle. However, if ducts are found to have significant acoustical benefits, then acoustical priorities may provide a compelling reason to incorporate ducted proprotors.

One significant limitation of the design presented in this paper is that the ducted proprotor performance was tuned based upon performance characteristics observed during historical tests with disk loadings (defined as thrust divided by proprotor disk area) of 125-250 lb/ft^2. The tiltduct vehicle designed in this study has a disk loading of 30 lb/ft^2, to be more representative of UAM vehicles; further studies to understand performance of ducted proprotors at representative disk loadings are warranted.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Siena K S Whiteside
(Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia, United States)
Beau P Pollard
(Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia, United States)
Date Acquired
December 15, 2021
Subject Category
Aircraft Design, Testing And Performance
Meeting Information
Aeromechanics for Advanced Vertical Flight Technical Meeting, Transformative Vertical Flight 2022(San Jose, CA)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 664817.
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
NASA Technical Management
Advanced Air Mobility
Urban Air Mobility
Ducted Proprotor
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