November 9, 2022

Drones with morphable wings

Jon Robinson

Aerodynamic representation of the UAS-S45 wing with and without deformation. (Image: SUBSTANCE, École de technologie supérieure)

— By Luc Boily

In its scientific news and innovation SUBSTANCE bulletin of November 8, 2022, the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) of Montreal included a research article published on October 26 entitled New morphing wing technologies for the drones of the future. You read correctly!

According to the authors, Musavir Bashir, Simon Longtin-Martel, Ruxandra Botez and Tony Wong (from the Canada Research Chair in Aircraft Modeling and Simulation Technologies), morphing wings allow an aircraft to fly more efficiently than fixed wings. Such a property allows the wing to change its geometric shape in flight and maximize the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft.

Obviously, morphing wing technology presents several challenges, but its designers believe that it will play an important role in the future of aviation, due to its increased fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The concept developed by the researchers is the aerodynamic optimization of the deformation of the leading edge of the nose (DNLE – for Droop-Nose Leading-Edge) on a well-known drone: the UAS-S45.

To help reach their goal, the researchers leveraged an innovative algorithm called Black Widow Optimization (BWO). They have thus succeeded in improving aerodynamic performance while minimizing drag and maximizing aerodynamic endurance in the cruise flight phase. Numerical studies have validated the effectiveness of the optimization strategy, namely a reduction in drag of nearly 12.18 per cent and an increase in aerodynamic endurance of nearly 10 per cent. These results indicate how the leading-edge morphing wing can improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the UAS-S45 airfoil.

“Morphable wing technology is the future of aeronautical design. Drones could fly efficiently in various conditions by changing the shape of their wings during flight, like birds,” reads the conclusion of the scientific article. Crumbling wing technology optimizes fuel efficiency and handling. The DNLE optimization was designed to increase the aerodynamic performance of the UAS-S45 in the cruise phase for an angle of attack of 2°. The DNLE optimized airfoil demonstrates a drop in drag coefficient to 0.00678 compared to the reference airfoil. In addition, up to 15.22 per cent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency has been achieved by increasing the lift-to-drag ratio for the UAS-S45’s optimized airfoil.