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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    Moving computational fluid dynamics analysis forward

    By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications, posted 17 June 2014, 9:20 a.m. EDT

    Transformative Aerospace System Analysis Panel 16Jun14Does computational fluid dynamics still have a place in aerospace analysis? The answer from a panel of experts gathered at AIAA’s AVIATION 2014 Forum in Atlanta, Ga., was “yes, but we have to improve it.” How to improve it, the methods to be used, and the various futures of CFD-based research sparked debate before the capacity crowd gathered in the session room on Monday afternoon.

    Moderating the discussion was Robert D. Gregg III, chief aerodynamicist at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Panelists included Wilson Felder, Distinguished Service Professor, School of Systems and Enterprises, Stevens Institute of Technology; Parviz Moin, Franklin P. and Caroline M. Johnson Professor, Center for Turbulence Research, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University; Stephen Morford, Chief Engineer, systems analysis and aerodynamics, Pratt & Whitney; David Schuster, NASA Technical Fellow for Aerosciences, NASA Engineering and Safety Center, NASA Langley Research Center; Jeffrey Slotnick, Boeing Technical Fellow, Computational Sciences and Aerodynamics, Boeing Research & Technology; and Cord-Christian Rossow, Director, Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology, German Aerospace Center.

    The first half of the program looked at a new report, “Vision of CFD in 2030,” that attempts to forecast the role of computational fluid dynamics in aerospace development by 2030. Among the report’s findings are that CFD offers researchers several advantages: Better predictive modeling, better management of errors and uncertainties, a much higher degree of automation in all steps of the analysis process, the ability to make efficient use of high-powered computing technology and flexible use of computing systems, as well as seamless integration with multidisciplinary analyses.

    The report says there are also several barriers that will impede progress toward greater efficiency in CFD-based research. One is declining investment in basic research and technology development for simulation-based analyses. Another is the unpredictability of the evolution of computing technology. The accuracy of models and other technical issues also hamper effective use of the technology, the report says.

    Solving these problems is a priority, said Stephen Morford of Pratt & Whitney. “Aerospace is the number-one [U.S.] export. It is the thing that causes the most positive trade balance we have – and we have an overall negative trade balance. We should think about that.”

    Panelists then discussed possible solutions to the problems facing CFD. Models proposed included tax incentives for program development, crowd-sourcing research ideas and priorities, increased government funding – identified as “wishful thinking” by Wilson Felder – and private funding for research. However, it was a government-driven, multi-agency approach that emerged as the favorite. Nearly every panel member identified the approach as necessary for sustaining program growth, lowering research costs, and ensuring maximum economic benefit to research programs. Moiz said the best approach should be “interdisciplinary, be curious about what others are doing in a domain, and…be done under one roof with long-term support.”

    The session was the first of its kind for AIAA, with interactive polling of the audience. The results revealed that the audience agreed with the speakers, with nearly 40% of the polling sample favoring “establishing government, multi-agency research initiatives” as a way to solve the problems effectively.

    The poll’s result suggests that the panelists persuaded attendees that CFD has a bright future, but also that it will need ongoing government support and renewed efforts to keep its progress on track to deliver greater capabilities by 2030.

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