A multi-fidelity framework for physics based rotor blade simulation and optimization

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Collins, Kyle Brian
Mavris, Dimitri N.
Sankar, Lakshmi N.
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New helicopter rotor designs are desired that offer increased efficiency, reduced vibration, and reduced noise. This problem is multidisciplinary, requiring knowledge of structural dynamics, aerodynamics, and aeroacoustics. Rotor optimization requires achieving multiple, often conflicting objectives. There is no longer a single optimum but rather an optimal trade-off space, the Pareto Frontier. Rotor Designers in industry need methods that allow the most accurate simulation tools available to search for Pareto designs. Computer simulation and optimization of rotors have been advanced by the development of "comprehensive" rotorcraft analysis tools. These tools perform aeroelastic analysis using Computational Structural Dynamics (CSD). Though useful in optimization, these tools lack built-in high fidelity aerodynamic models. The most accurate rotor simulations utilize Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) coupled to the CSD of a comprehensive code, but are generally considered too time consuming where numerous simulations are required like rotor optimization. An approach is needed where high fidelity CFD/CSD simulation can be routinely used in design optimization. This thesis documents the development of physics based rotor simulation frameworks. A low fidelity model uses a comprehensive code with simplified aerodynamics. A high fidelity model uses a parallel processor capable CFD/CSD methodology. Both frameworks include an aeroacoustic simulation for prediction of noise. A synergistic process is developed that uses both frameworks together to build approximate models of important high fidelity metrics as functions of certain design variables. To test this process, a 4-bladed hingeless rotor model is used as a baseline. The design variables investigated include tip geometry and spanwise twist. Approximation models are built for high fidelity metrics related to rotor efficiency and vibration. Optimization using the approximation models found the designs having maximum rotor efficiency and minimum vibration. Various Pareto generation methods are used to find frontier designs between these two anchor designs. The Pareto anchors are tested in the high fidelity simulation and shown to be good designs, providing evidence that the process has merit. Ultimately, this process can be utilized by industry rotor designers with their existing tools to bring high fidelity analysis into the preliminary design stage of rotors.
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