airborne wind energy, wind harvesting aircraft, kite power, aerodynamics, vortex particle method, crosswind


Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) technology aspires to provide increased options for wind energy harvesting. This includes increased feasibility for temporary and remote installations, as well as the ability to operate at wind speeds both lower and higher than traditional turbines. Additionally, the hope is to be able to produce these extensions of wind energy technology at a lower cost than conventional technologies. As AWE technology is still in its infancy, however, there is very little published information concerning the aerodynamic details of the technology. We have created a set of aerodynamic analysis tools which we apply to wind harvesting aircraft, or windcraft for short, in order to explore some of the basic aerodynamic performance properties of a rigid-wing, on-board generation AWE platform, similar to the Makani M600 prototype. In this work, we perform an introductory exploration of the aerodynamics of a windcraft first in steady, level flight, then following a circular path in cross-wind flight. Positive interactions between the upper and lower rotor wakes increase the overall wing lift in the steady, level case by an average of 5.3 percent relative to the wing without rotors present. In addition to the same positive interactions between upper and lower rotors, the cross-wind orientation of the circular path leads to the rotor wakes being pushed "up" relative to the wing, leading to an additional increase in force. Specifically, the normal force of the wing with rotors in the circular path is increased by an average of 17.3 percent relative to the wing in the same path without rotors.

Original Publication Citation

Mehr, J., Alvarez, E. J., and Ning, A., “Unsteady Aerodynamic Analysis of Wind Harvesting Aircraft,” AIAA Scitech 2020 Forum, Jun. 2020. doi:10.2514/6.2020-2761

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date







Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor