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ANSYS Software Simulates Historic European Flight
Posted Mon October 02, 2006 @12:07PM
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Application ANSYS, Inc., a global innovator of simulation software and technologies designed to optimize product development processes, today announced that its software has been used to demonstrate the air-worthiness of the aircraft that Alberto Santos-Dumont piloted during the first public flight of a heavier-than-air machine in Europe a century ago. A team of Brazilian students recently used ANSYS ICEM CFD and ANSYS CFX software to analyze and understand airflow around the plane's surface.

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Santos-Dumont was an aircraft pioneer, now regarded as an aviation hero in his homeland of Brazil. On October 23, 1906, he flew his aircraft, named the 14-Bis, almost 200 feet at Bagatelli Field in Paris, France, witnessed by officials from what would become the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. This won Santos-Dumont the Deutsch-Archdeacon Prize and secured his place in aviation history for the first officially-recognized airplane flight in Europe.

The aircraft is unusual based on modern standards. The 14-Bis consisted of a long neck at the front of the craft with wings in the rear, and the pilot maneuvered the plane from a standing position. The team of Brazil students was sponsored by Engineering Simulation and Scientific Software Ltda. (ESSS), a leading ANSYS software distributor in South America, to use modern engineering simulation to demonstrate the 14-Bis' ability to fly. By analyzing drag and lift as well as engine thrust, the team was able to simulate the flight speed of the aircraft close to the recorded values.

"Our company was very pleased to support the CFD 14-Bis project on several fronts," said Marcus Reis of ESSS. "We conduct a wide range of engineering simulation in fields such as oil and gas, aviation and automation. This project was an opportunity for us to use what we do best in support of a national project on the anniversary of the Santos-Dumont flight."

Students from the Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica (ITA), a center for aerospace research located in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, worked together on the 14-Bis project. "The ease of use and accuracy of the software tools -- ANSYS CFX and ANSYS ICEM CFD -- allowed our team to build the geometry and perform a series of studies in order to predict and understand the aerodynamic behavior of the 14-Bis airplane," said Leonardo Bitencourt, who led the student effort. He and his team were guided by Dr. Joao L.F. Azevedo, senior researcher from the Instituto de Aeronautica e Espaco (IAE).

The model of the 14-Bis was developed using historic pictures, plans and discussion. Due to complex geometry, the surfaces were meshed using ANSYS ICEM CFD software to create both high-quality surface and volumetric meshes. ANSYS CFX computational fluid dynamics tools were used to simulate the airflow around the aircraft. In his first attempt, Santos-Dumont used 24 hp nominal power and failed. In the second and successful attempt, he increased the nominal power to 50 hp. By analyzing drag and lift as well as engine thrust, the students were able to estimate possible angle-of-attack and flight speed values: around 5 degrees and the range of 12 to 14 m/s are the predicted flight conditions. The value of 11 m/s is generally quoted as the ground- related speed. The possible minor discrepancy could be due to the presence of wind or ground effects during the centennial flight, which were not taken into account in the simulation.

"ANSYS software is very often involved in simulation-driven development to assist companies in creating increasingly innovative products. The CFD 14-Bis project however, was very much a forensic analysis -- another area in which ANSYS excels, arming engineers and designers with a better understanding of cause and effect of equipment performance," said Chris Reid, vice president, marketing at ANSYS, Inc. "It is fascinating to see the validation of flight designs from 100 years ago, with the cutting edge simulation and modeling tools of today."

Geometry of the 14-Bis
Geometry of the 14-Bis, the aircraft flown by Alberto Santos-Dumont in setting the record for the first heavier-than-air flight in Europe.

 

Velocity field
Qualitative analysis of the velocity field was provided through the use of ANSYS CFX computational fluid dynamics software.

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