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Aerospace Capstone Design: Interactive Initial Sizing Estimates for Increasing Designer Intuition and Mitigating Risk in the Early Stages of Aircraft Conceptual Design

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Aerospace Division Technical Session 2

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Paper Authors


D. Blake Stringer Kent State University Orcid 16x16

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Blake Stringer, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of at Kent State University. He is the founding faculty member of the university's aerospace engineering program. Prior to joining the faculty at Kent State, Dr. Stringer served in the Army for 20 years as an army aviator, West Point faculty member, and research engineer. He holds a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering from the US Military Academy, a masters degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech, and a doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia. Prior to his retirement, he led the Army Research Laboratory’s vehicle propulsion division, conducting basic and applied research of engine and drive system technologies. His research interests are varied and include unmanned aerial systems, the aerodynamics of vertical axis wind turbines, rotating mechanical components, rotordynamics, and engineering education pedagogy. As an aviator, he has been rated in both rotary and fixed-wing platforms. He also holds a FAA commercial airman’s certificate.

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Dakota William Bunner

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Robert William Winkler

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In academia, aircraft design is a unique capstone course(s), measured in one or two semesters. In some cases, aircraft design courses introduce the student to both the design process as well as the complexities associated with designing an object that travels through the air.

In industry, aircraft design is a unique and complex process, measured in years. Success or failure of an aircraft development program is often the result of decisions made in the initial stages of the design process. At these early stages, design knowledge is low and technical risk is high. These factors increase the likelihood of requirements creep, and if not managed properly, can result in significant cost overruns, schedule slips, and cancellation of an aircraft program.

The first analysis step in aircraft design is the initial weight estimate. Initial sizing of an aircraft defines its rough size and weight based upon its intended requirements. At this very early stage of design, there is often no means of directly assessing the impact of creep-type changes in design parameters (e.g., range, payload, etc.) on the size of the aircraft, nor the effects of changing the input parameters themselves. This denies useful information to the students at the beginning stages of a course, educationally beneficial information to increasing student knowledge and intuition, as well as managing or reducing the risk inherent in design.

This paper presents an interactive sizing results using response surface techniques. It is intended to provide parametric information about the design space up-front, including the ability to perform several “what-if” scenarios early in the process. The interactive results presented in this paper provide value to the student and quantifiable information to reduce uncertainty in their design decisions. This method provides important student learning outcomes to the classroom environment.

Stringer, D. B., & Bunner, D. W., & Winkler, R. W. (2018, June), Aerospace Capstone Design: Interactive Initial Sizing Estimates for Increasing Designer Intuition and Mitigating Risk in the Early Stages of Aircraft Conceptual Design Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29760

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