Better Wings for Better Aircraft

Learn how optimization-based winglet design leads to significant improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency, range, stability, and even control and handling.

Anyone who has looked up at a large aircraft taking off or landing on a humid day, has probably seen a vortex, its low-pressure core made white by condensing water vapor, trailing behind each wing - tip. It takes a lot of energy to churn air into these vortices, which are much larger than their visible cores - energy which has to come from the aircraft engines, thus increasing fuel consumption.

Aircraft designers have tried many ways to either harness the energy of the rotating air, or reduce the strength of the vortical motion, thereby reducing the energy loss. One of the most common ways of doing this is to add a small wing, known as a winglet, to the wingtip.

The design of these appendages involves, however, a trade-off between the benefits of lower induced drag (i.e the drag associated with the wingtip vortices) and the disadvantages of increased overall weight as well as an increase in other forms of drag. ESTECO’s process integration and design optimization software, modeFRONTIER, has been used in a number of studies to improve winglet design.

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