electric powered aircraft, large scale multidisciplinary optimization, NASA X-57, OpenMDAO, distributed electric propulsion, aircraft design


Distributed electric propulsion is a key enabling technology for on-demand electric aircraft concepts. NASA’s X-57 Maxwell X-plane is a demonstrator for this technology, and it features a row of high-lift propellers distributed along the leading edge of its wing to enable better aerodynamic efficiency at cruise and improved ride quality in addition to less noise and emissions. This study applies adjoint- based multidisciplinary design optimization to this highly coupled design problem. The propulsion, aerodynamics, and structures are modeled using blade element momentum theory, the vortex lat- tice method, and finite element analysis, respectively, and the full mission profile is discretized and analyzed. The design variables in the optimization problem include the altitude profile, the velocity profile, battery weight, propeller diameter, blade profile parameters, wing thickness distribution, and angle of attack. Optimizations take on the order of 10 hours, and a 12% increase in range is observed.

Original Publication Citation

Hwang, J. T., and Ning, A., “Large-Scale Multidisciplinary Optimization of an Electric Aircraft for On-Demand Mobility,” AIAA Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, Kissimmee, FL, Jan. 2018. doi:10.2514/6.2018-1384

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Conference Paper

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Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor