HALE Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Part I: Solar-Powered Single and Multiple-Boom Aircraft

Dorian F. Colas, Nicholas H. Roberts and Vishvas S. Suryakumar (Facebook Inc.)

CHALLENGE - Recent interest to improve global communication capabilities, particularly, in regions of low internet connectivity, has spurred the development of solar-powered High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) vehicles and other pseudo-satellites. Solar Powered airplanes offer the capability of staying airborne with the ability to station-keep for several months. However, stringent operational conditions, particularly during winter-solstice, place demanding requirements on every aircraft subsystem. For instance, the need for long endurance, requires superior aerodynamic performance (high L/D) at low Reynolds numbers and efficient light-weight structures.

SOLUTION - To fully exploit these interactions and thereby achieve significant weight savings, modeFRONTIER Multi-Disciplinary Optimization (MDO) framework has been employed to minimize weight as a proxy for cost while maximize latitude as a proxy for system utility.

BENEFITS - The study demonstrated the sizing approach using the framework on two configurations: single and dual-boom aircraft. Active constraints driving the design in each were identified. Several validation studies were performed for aerodynamics, structures and their interaction. In general, good agreement was found with higher-order methods.