Student engineers answer NASA’s call to design the airplane of 2058.
- By Michael Klesius
- AirSpaceMag.com, August 06, 2008
(Page 2 of 3)
That student, 18-year-old Aditya Singh, won in the category for ideas submitted by non-U.S. high schoolers. His proposal, a two-seat personal air vehicle he named the Dodo (see pictures of his design and others in the photo gallery at right), incorporates an array of modern concepts such as a reduced blended wing body, lightweight composite materials, and two horizontal electric motors to supplement a lightweight Wankel rotary engine.
“I’m personally obsessed with the idea of a personal air vehicle,” says Singh. “My first inspiration which got me down to serious thinking was the Green Goblin’s glider in Spider-Man. I’m sure such an idea can be exploited and taken further for the benefit of all. A quick glance at history shows us that humans consistently shift to technologies which make lives easier for them; in fact, better for them. From walking to bullock carts to cycles to trains to cars.... Aircraft will be the next revolution in everyday transportation.” Singh hopes to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next year to continue studying aeronautical engineering.
Among the college entries, an eight-person team from Georgia Tech won in the graduate student category for their biplane of the future. A high-lift, low-drag, straight-wing design, it carries large rotors at the wingtips that spin from the force of air sweeping off the end of the wing—energy normally wasted, but, in this concept, fed back to the system.
“Aviation needs a revolution in vehicle design,” says Georgia Tech team member Kemp Kernstein. “This aircraft attempts to regain many aspects of lost energy in flight, use more efficient systems, operate at more efficient power settings, all while keeping the noise as low as possible.”
A six-person team from Virginia Tech, all sophomores, won in the undergraduate slot with a design called STINGRAE, for Short Take-off Integrated Nacelle-less Geometry for Reduction of Acoustics and Emissions. The airplane’s four engines are enclosed in a quasi-blended wing body to increase lift and reduce drag. And because jet engines operate most efficiently at maximum thrust, says team member Stephen Pace, pilots would use all four engines on takeoff. Then, during cruise, they’d power off two of them while operating the other two at max throttle.
“The problems facing our nation and planet regarding energy and environmental sustainability are immense,” says Pace. “The absolute most important performance advantage of our design is lower specific fuel consumption. [We’re] proud to be acknowledged by NASA for contributing to the solution.”
A University of Miami team placed second in the undergrad category with a 250-passenger, blended wing body called QUEIA, for Quiet Ultra-Efficient Integrated Aircraft. “We decided that we could take the flying wing design to the next level,” says team member Joseph Dussling. A key feature is the Co-Flow Jet concept, he says, with engines embedded in the top part of the trailing edge to increase lift. The team’s computational fluid dynamics calculations show that QUEIA’s lift-to-drag ratio would virtually double that of a Boeing 737 or even the new 787.
Three members of the design team will return to Miami this fall for their senior year. “The team is actually very excited about the future of QUEIA,” says Dussling. They’ve received funding for the continued development of their design, and the work they’ve done thus far has provided a huge head start, which they’ll build upon for their senior design project.