Abstract

Recent advances in urban air mobility have driven the development of many new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) concepts. These vehicles often feature original designs departing from the conventional helicopter configuration. Due to their novelty, the characteristics of the supervortices forming in the wake of such aircraft are unknown. However, these vortices may endanger any other vehicle evolving in their close proximity, owing to potentially large induced velocities. Therefore, improved knowledge about the wakes of VTOL vehicles is needed to guarantee safe urban air mobility operations. In this work, we study the wake of three VTOL aircraft in cruise by means of large eddy simulation. We present a two-stage numerical procedure that enables the simulation of long wake ages at a limited computational cost. Our simulations reveal that the wakes of rotary vehicles (quadcopter and side-by-side helicopter) feature larger wake vortex cores than an isolated wing. Their decay is also accelerated due to self-induced turbulence generated during the wake roll-up. A tilt-wing wake, on the other hand, is moderately turbulent and has smaller vortex cores than the wing. Finally, we introduce an empirical model of the vortex circulation distribution that enables fast prediction of wake-induced velocities, within a 2% error of the simulation results on average.

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