PhD Studentship: Robust Analysis and Optimisation Process for Virtual Flight Simulation of Very-flexible Aircraft

University of Southampton - Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

Aircraft design proceeds through a series of maturity gates. At the conceptual design phase, the primary objective is to produce a tentative engineering proposal that meets the requirements of the envisioned aircraft with the facility for accommodating constraints from unforeseen environmental and economic forces. The methods that aid in bringing a conceptual design into fruition are primarily analytical and semi-empirical, limited in their application by the strong underlying assumptions. Although there is a continued effort to introduce physics-based methods earlier in the design process [1], there are inherent sources of uncertainty in aerodynamic performance and weight and balance predictions that need to be accounted for. Therefore, the central question posed in this research project is: Can we develop a robust analysis and optimisation process for a highly flexible aerial platform, and assess the performance of the virtual aircraft through testing on a fixed-base flight simulator?

The PhD project is built around three technical objectives. The first is related to the development of the computational framework for robust analysis and optimisation using open-source software tools as well as in-house codes already implemented at the two host organisations. The second objective concerns the ability to deal with uncertainties in the weight and balance estimates, and to manage the widespread impact that this type of uncertainty has on the multi-faceted aspects of aircraft design. The third objective relates to the development of the flight control system that accounts for noisy measurements of interest quantities at few, discrete sensor locations, with the measurement quality being dependent on the type of sensors used. The design of an unmanned aerial vehicle will be assisted by virtual testing on a fixed-base flight simulator located at the University of Southampton.

The proposed PhD programme will be completed in a split-site agreement between the University of Southampton, UK, and ONERA – The French Aerospace Lab.

The successful applicant has an excellent background in physics, engineering or applied mathematics. Experience with programming is essential. One full three-year studentship is available for UK/EU students only. The stipend is at the standard EPSRC-level.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Andrea Da Ronch, Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 4787.

[1] Franciolini M, Da Ronch A, Drofelnik J, Raveh D and Crivellini A, “Efficient infinite–swept wing solver for steady and unsteady compressible flows”, Aerospace Science and Technology, 2017; 72: 217-229.

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