Impact of a biologically-inspired tail assembly on drag reduction for lighter-than-air near-space platforms

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University of Alabama Libraries

The near space region is a vastly underused region of our atmosphere due to the extreme conditions present but makes up approximately 75% of the usable atmosphere. Although there are no weather patterns like rain, storms and clouds, the winds that are present at high altitudes are very challenging to overcome. Many have researched and designed high altitude platforms for exploration, but few have succeeded in experimental aircraft tests at altitude. Due to the low density, temperature and pressure in this region, fixed wing flight is almost impossible but lighter than air technology can be utilized to help overcome some of those challenges. Long endurance flight in the near space region is beginning to be heavily researched due to the many advantages of the capability from civilian uses to military uses. With the ever present winds in the near space region, lighter than air technology used in conjunction with its station keeping ability becomes an almost unconquerable task. This research focuses on using the adaptations of nature to help solve the power requirement challenge surrounding high altitude/long endurance flight. With the use of a biologically inspired tail, the drag on an airship can be decreased, and thus the power required for station keeping abilities. Using computational modeling, a complete environmental model was created to represent the aspects of the atmosphere that directly affect airship flight. A model of a basic shaped airship and an airship fitted with a tail inspired by avian flight were created to be used in the environmental model. The approach used in this research in one approach that could be used to significantly reduce the drag on a high altitude airship and help enable the creation of viable near space vehicles.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Aerospace engineering