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NGCM-17: Challenging topological prejudice - automated airframe layout design

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A. Sobester
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

There is an obvious hierarchy in terms of the construction of the external geometry of an airframe. At the lowest level one might find the geometrical primitives, the simple, generic curves and the surfaces that make up any parametric geometry. Next, we could imagine a tier comprising aircraft-specific primitives and their parameterizations - airfoils, fuselage sections, planform geometries, etc. At the next level we have major, three-dimensional sub-components, such as lifting surfaces and enclosure-type objects (fuselages, fairings, nacelles). The last decade or so has seen much progress in optimal design technology driven by high fidelity analysis codes - up to this level. But there is another, higher level: the layout - or topology - of the overall airframe. This is a poorly understood aspect of aircraft design and there are many unanswered questions.

Most modern aircraft are based on the same ’tube plus wing and cruciform tail’ type topology, but this is mostly due to risk-aversion. There is no scientific evidence that this layout is optimal in any way. So here is the question this project is to aim to answer. Given a topologically flexible geometry description (capable of producing a broad ’zoo’ of conventional, as well as exotic-looking airframes), would a sophisticated multi-disciplinary analysis driven optimization process yield a conventional layout? Or would it yield something unexpected? Does the answer depend on the mission profile?

To answer this, we need a design process free of topological prejudice, one that comes without any built in bias towards one solution or another - developing this lies at the heart of this project.

The project will be based at the University of Southampton’s new Engineering Centre of Excellence and will offer the chance to work in a large, active research group with a strong track record in multidisciplinary design optimization.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Andras Sobester, CEDG research group, Email: [email protected], Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2350.

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 192.23

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