Low- and High-Fidelity Aerodynamic Simulations of Box Wing Kites for Airborne Wind Energy Applications
, TU Delft
March 25th, 2023
High aerodynamic efficiency is a key design driver for airborne wind energy systems as it strongly affects the achievable energy output. Conventional fixed-wing systems generally use aerofoils with a high thickness-to-chord ratio to achieve high efficiency and wing loading. The box wing concept suits thinner aerofoils as the load distribution can be changed with a lower wing span and structural reinforcements between the upper and lower wings. This paper presents an open-source toolchain for reliable aerodynamic simulations of parameterized box wing configurations, automating the design, meshing, and simulation setup processes. The aerodynamic tools include the steady 3D panel method solver APAME and the CFD-solver OpenFOAM, which use a steady Reynolds-Averaged Navier–Stokes approach with k-ω SST turbulence model. The finite-volume mesh for the CFD-solver is generated automatically with Pointwise using eight physical design parameters, five aerofoil profiles and mesh refinement specifications. The panel method provided accurate and fast results in the linear lift region. For higher angles of attack, CFD simulations with high- to medium-quality meshes were required to obtain good agreement with measured lift and drag coefficients.
The CFD simulations showed that the upper wing stall lagged behind the lower wing, increasing the stall angle of attack compared to conventional fixed-wing kites. In addition, the wing tip boundary layer separation was delayed compared to the wing root for the straight rectangular box wing. Choosing the design point and operational envelope wisely can enhance the aerodynamic performance of airborne wind energy kites, which are generally operated at a large angle of attack to maximise the wing loading and tether force, and through that, the power output of the system.