Flying with ANSYS

Triton UAS is a project team from the sunny campus of the University of California, San Diego. We are a student-run team that designs, builds, tests, and flies our own UAV to compete each year in the Student UAS Competition hosted by the AUVSI Seafarer Chapter against teams from around the world. Despite the fact that the 2017 competition coincided with finals week, our team placed 9th overall out of 42 teams.

Team heading out to the flying field during competition

The objective of the competition is to build a UAS system capable of autonomous takeoff, flight, and landing, in addition to navigating to given GPS points, photographing and identifying ground targets, and avoiding simulated static and moving obstacles, all autonomously.

We manufacture our 10.5 foot wingspan airframe, pictured below, in house, completely from scratch using carbon fiber, fiberglass with balsa wood, and construction foam core for reinforcement.

Airframe in flight during field testing

Last year our team manufactured the above plane using the design and tooling created the year before. We used ANSYS Fluent analysis to verify hand calculations on the aerodynamics for the new plane. The simple 2D lift and drag hand calculations matched up surprisingly closely to the more complex model of the plane in ANSYS.

Additionally, the team performed basic structural analysis on various internal components of the plane to ensure that the components would function with minimized weight.

Velocity streamline (left) and pressure contour (right) in ANSYS Fluent
Wing deformation in ANSYS Static Structural

Our team plans to fully characterize our current plane with different flight cases such as takeoff and landing to better understand the impact loading the plane is subjected to each flight.

We are also looking to do analysis on different components on our plane to better understand how design changes to the current fuselage will affect the aerodynamic qualities and structural strength of our aircraft.

Later this season, we plan to begin designing an entirely new airframe. We will be using ANSYS to help make design choices, notably determining the aerodynamic characteristics and analyzing structural loading (during landing and flight) of the airframe before committing to a design and beginning the manufacturing process.

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Contact us at tuas [at] ucsd [dot] edu