SIM-AM 2023

Full scale aircraft structural optimization for electric flight concepts

  • vd Brink, Wouter (NLR)
  • Koenis, Tim (NLR)

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In this research the use of topology optimization for design space exploration is aimed at full scale electric aircraft structural design. Currently topology optimization design methodology is mainly used for smaller aircraft parts or components up to wing segments with great detail [Aage, 2017]. In order to assess the current possibilities, limitations and new concepts for electric flight this research was started. With the implementation of electric systems in an aircraft apart from the propulsion systems also the structural loading will change. The weight from the kerosene in the wings will be replaced by batteries for full electric flight. Batteries will be placed partly in the wings but also for a large part in the fuselage. This increases the load going from the wingbox to the fuselage resulting in the need for structural adjustments. Several concepts for full electric aircraft based on the ATR-42 and battery placement have been investigated with multiple load-cases. Additionally a design optimization strategy has been investigated to allow for thin member design, e.g. fuselage skin in order of millimeters with size of the aircraft in the order of meters. High performance computing has been used to enable computation of these challenging problems. The resulting concepts show design directions that would be interesting to further evaluate for (additive) manufacturing and scaled flight testing at NLR.