Scholarly Communications Project

Efficient Low-Speed Flight in a Wind Field


Michael A. Feldman

Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Science


Eugene M. Cliff, Chair
Frederick H. Lutze
Wayne C. Durham

July 24, 1996
Blacksburg, Virginia


A new software tool was needed for flight planning of a high altitude, low speed unmanned aerial vehicle which would be flying in winds close to the actual airspeed of the vehicle. An energy modeled NLP formulation was used to obtain results for a variety of missions and wind profiles. The energy constraint derived included terms due to the wind field and the performance index was a weighted combination of the amount of fuel used and the final time. With no emphasis on time and with no winds the vehicle was found to fly at maximum lift to drag velocity, Vmd. When flying in tail winds the velocity was less than Vmd, while flying in head winds the velocity was higher than Vmd. A family of solutions was found with varying times of flight and varying fuel amounts consumed which will aid the operator in choosing a flight plan depending on a desired landing time. At certain parts of the flight, the turning terms in the energy constraint equation were found to be significant. An analysis of a simpler vertical plane cruise optimal control problem was used to explain some of the characteristics of the vertical plane NLP results.

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