Solar Aircraft Design Trade Studies Using Geometric Programming

AIAA Aviation

By: Michael Burton, Christopher Courtin, Mark Drela, Dorian Colas, Nicholas Roberts, Vishvas Suryakumar


Solar aircraft design is a multidisciplinary problem in which tradeoffs between aerodynamic performance, structural integrity, component performance, cost, and manufacturability are complex and non-intuitive. By formulating the problem as a Geometric Program, design configuration trades and parameter sensitivity studies can be achieved with far greater speed and reliability than possible using more traditional conceptual and preliminary aircraft design practices. Using the GP approach, trade studies in design parameters, configurations and requirements are presented for an optimized solar-electric aircraft. The results of these trade studies are used to inform design decisions and validate higher order models.