Revolutions in Rotorcraft Design Optimization

Revolutions in Rotorcraft Design Optimization

Revolutions in Rotorcraft Design Optimization

New High-Fidelity Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Framework results in superior designs that feature higher performance at a lower cost

Rotorcraft applications face a diverse set of mixed-speed flight conditions and multidisciplinary challenges. The complexity in confronting these challenges requires state-of-the-art analysis toolsets that can support simulations involving both a wide range of speed regimes and multidisciplinary effects. Sophisticated software tools take advantage of the most advanced numerical methods, physical models, and software design practice, but the rotorcraft simulations still place an immense burden on computational frameworks, often requiring frequent solutions of billions of equations.

Dr. Li Wang works in the Computational AeroSciences Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She has been leading research on the development of a practical and efficient design optimization tool for rotorcraft aeromechanics since joining the National Institute of Aerospace as a Senior Research Engineer in 2015. Named AIAA Hampton Roads Section 2019 Engineer of the Year  Dr. Wang recently presented her work at the inaugural Laurence D. Leavitt Lecture.

Her methodology couples state-of-art computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and rotorcraft comprehensive analysis (CA) and enables multidisciplinary sensitivity analysis for high-fidelity design optimization. The High-Fidelity Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Framework for Rotorcraft Applications explicitly considers significant interactions and synergies between disciplines to enable the analysis and optimization of a complete system. This approach results in superior designs that feature higher performance at a lower cost compared to those achieved using more conventional methods.


Li Wang
Dr. Li Wang, NIA Senior Research Engineer
Rotorcraft simulation analysis FUN3D
FUN 3D Simulation of the UH-60 rotor system in the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex. Credit: Elizabeth Lee-Rausch, Robert Biedron, NASA/Langley

“Even optimization of a single discipline is an extremely arduous task,” according to Dr. Boris Diskin, Research Fellow at the National Institute of Aerospace and Director of NIA’s Center for High-Performance Aerospace Computing (HiPAC). Dr. Wang’s multidisciplinary analysis and design optimization framework addresses extremely complicated problems on many different levels. Dr. Diskin adds, “Our challenge is not only to be very accurate in our simulations, but also to be very efficient.” Dr. Wang’s research is enabling high-fidelity sensitivity analysis that–even on NASA’s fastest supercomputers–would have not previously been practical due to extreme computational complexity.

Dr. Wang’s work has been successfully applied to optimize the performance of rotorcraft simultaneously for various flight conditions. Verification and validation have been conducted for CFD/CA analysis of HART-II and UH-60A Blackhawk configurations across several flight conditions with outstanding results. As work continues, it’s clear that the research by Dr. Wang and her colleagues will have a significant impact on the aerospace community. It is likely to have a profound impact far beyond aerospace, as the concepts can be applied to make complex analysis and optimization work in other fields far more efficient and effective.