Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Douglas F. Hunsaker


Douglas F. Hunsaker


Barton L. Smith


Matthew W. Harris


Som Dutta


Todd K. Moon


In the early stages of aircraft design, engineers consider many different design concepts, examining the trade-offs between different component arrangements and sizes, thrust and power requirements, etc. Because so many different designs are considered, it is best in the early stages of design to use simulation tools that are fast; accuracy is secondary. A common simulation tool for early design and analysis is the panel method. Panel methods were first developed in the 1950s and 1960s with the advent of modern computers. Despite being reasonably accurate and very fast, their development was abandoned in the late 1980s in favor of more complex and accurate simulation methods. The panel methods developed in the 1980s are still in use by aircraft designers today because of their accuracy and speed. However, they are cumbersome to use and limited in applicability. The purpose of this work is to reexamine panel methods in a modern context. In particular, this work focuses on the application of panel methods to supersonic aircraft (a supersonic aircraft is one that flies faster than the speed of sound). Various aspects of the panel method, including the distributions of the unknown flow variables on the surface of the aircraft and efficiently solving for these unknowns, are discussed. Trade-offs between alternative formulations are examined and recommendations given. This work also serves to bring together, clarify, and condense much of the literature previously published regarding panel methods so as to assist future developers of panel methods.




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