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An excellent way for students to gain a feel for aerodynamic forces is to fly

An excellent way for students to gain a feel for aerodynamic forces is to fly a kite. Kites fly because of forces acting on the parts of the kite. Though kites come in many shapes and sizes, the forces which act on the kite are the same for all kites. You can compare these forces to the forces that act on an airliner in flight and you will find that, replacing the thrust with the tension in the line, they are exactly the same. The similarity in forces allowed the Wright brothers to test their theories of flight by flying their aircraft as kites from 1900 to 1902.

On this slide we show the aerodynamic equations which would describe the motion of a flying kite. The graphic shows a side view of the flying kite with the aerodynamic lift and drag shown by the blue vectors. The wind is blowing parallel to the ground. The drag is in the direction of the wind, while the lift is perpendicular to the wind. Both aerodynamic forces act through the center of pressure, the black and yellow dot on the kite.

Since the forces on a kite are the same as the forces on an airplane, we can use the mathematical equations developed to predict airplane performance to predict the aerodynamic performance of a kite. In particular, the lift equation and the drag equation, shown on the upper right side of the slide, have been developed to determine the magnitude of the aircraft forces. The lift L is equal to a lift coefficient Cl times the projected surface area A times the air density r times one half the square of the wind velocity V.

L = Cl * A * r * .5 * V^2

Similarly, the drag D is equal to a drag coefficient Cd times the projected surface area A times the air density r times one half the square of the wind velocity V.

D = Cd * A * r * .5 * V^2

The magnitude of these forces depend on the lift coefficient, Cl, and the drag coefficient, Cd, which depend on geometric properties of the kite and the angle between the kite surfaces and the wind. The coefficients are usually determined experimentally for aircraft. But the aerodynamic surfaces for most kites are simple, thin, flat plates. So we can use some experimental values of the lift and drag coefficients for flat plates to get a first order idea of our kite performance. The values of these coefficients are given on separate slides for lift and drag.

The aerodynamic forces on your kite depend directly on the surface area of the kite. You first learn how to compute the area for a geometric shape while you are in middle school. The surface area depends on the particular design of your kite.

The aerodynamic forces also depend on the air velocity and density. In general, the density depends on your location on the earth. The higher the elevation, the lower the density. The standard value for air density r at sea level conditions is given as:

r = 1.229 kg/m^3 or .00237 slug/ft^3.

The variation with altitude is described on a separate page. The air velocity is the relative speed between the kite and the air. Since the kite is held fixed by the control line, this reduces to the wind speed. The aerodynamic forces change with the square of the velocity.

The mathematical equations involved with the forces and torques on a kite can be solved by using a computer program. You can use the KiteModeler program to further study how kites work and to design your own kites.

further study how kites work and to design your own kites. Newton's first law of motion

Newton's first law of motion specifies that when all the external forces on an object are balanced, there is no net external force and it moves at a constant velocity or remain at rest (velocity equals zero). This law holds for both linear motion and forces and for twisting motion and twisting forces. Twisting forces are called torques, or moments. The twisting motion occurs about some point called the pivot. A torque is related to a linear force; the torque about a point is equal to the force times the perpendicular distance to the point. In equilibrium, there are no net torques about the pivot and the angular velocity is constant (or zero).

Fundamentals

An excellent way for students to gain a feel for the action of torques and forces is to fly a kite. Kites can fly because of the forces acting on the parts of the kite. Though kites come in many shapes and sizes, the forces which act on a kite are the same for all kites. You can compare the forces to the

forces acting on an airliner in flight and you will find that, with the exception of thrust, they are exactly the same. The similarity in forces allowed the Wright brothers to test their theories of flight by flying their aircraft as kites form 1900 to 1902.

There are, however, some important differences in the response of a kite to external forces that do not occur in an airplane. An airplane in flight rotates about its center of gravity. The center of gravity for any object is the average location of the weight of all the parts of the object. A kite in flight does not rotate about its center of gravity because it is pinned by the bridle to the control line. A kite in flight is more closely related to a hinged door than to an airplane in flight. The center of gravity of a hinged door is in the center of the^M door, but the door rotates about the hinges. A kite in flight rotates about the bridle point which is the place where the line is attached to the bridle as shown by the red dot on the slide.

There are three main forces which act on a kite; the weight, the aerodynamics, and the tension in the line. Because the bridle point is the pivot about which the kite rotates, the tension does not contribute to the torques on the system (the distance is zero). As shown on the figure, the weight produces a clockwise torque TW about the bridle point which is equal to the magnitude of the weight W times the perpendicular distance g from the bridle point to the center of gravity.

TW = W * g

The aerodynamic force produces a counterclockwise torque TF about the bridle point which is equal to the magnitude of the aerodynamic force F times the perpendicular distance p from the bridle point to the center of pressure.

TF = F * p

Notice that the distances are measured perpendicular to the forces and not just directly to the center of pressure and center of gravity. Also notice that the direction of the force determines the direction of the torque. Forces and torques are vector quantities having a magnitude and a direction. The direction is as important as the magnitude.

In equilibrium, these torques are balanced and there is no rotation of the kite about the bridle point. This is called a trimmed flight condition.

The Tricky Part

W * g = F * p

In flight, a kite can rotate about the bridle point. As the kite rotates, the inclination angle between the kite and the wind changes. The magnitude and direction of the aerodynamic force depends on this angle and the ratio of the lift and drag which depends on the design of the kite. So as the kite rotates, the aerodynamic force changes and this changes the aerodynamic torque about the bridle point as discussed above. If the changing aerodynamic torque balances the weight torque, the kite reaches an equilibrium condition and sits at a fixed inclination angle with no further rotation about the bridle point. But if the aerodynamic torque does not equal the weight torque, the kite continues to rotate under the action of the unequal torques. It is possible that the aerodynamic torque never equals the weight torque which causes the kite to continually rotate.

In equilibrium the kite is inclined to the wind (and to the ground) at a fixed angle and the magnitude of the lift force depends directly on this angle. Since the weight of the kite is constant, the difference between the lift and the weight is an indication of how well the kite flies. If the lift is greater, the kite climbs faster, flies higher, and is able to lift more string. If the lift is less, the kite climbs slowly or maybe not at all! Since the flight angle depends on the balance of torques, and the torques depend on the location of the bridle point relative to the cg and cp, the location of the bridle point has a major effect on the performance of the kite. The location of the bridle point can be changed by the flyer before launch by moving the knot that holds the line to the bridle.

The mathematical equations involved with the forces and torques on a kite can be solved by using a computer program. You can use the KiteModeler program to further study how kites work and to design your own kites.

further study how kites work and to design your own kites. An excellent way for students

An excellent way for students to gain a feel for aerodynamic forces is to fly a kite. Kites can fly because of the forces acting on the parts of the kite. Though kites come in many shapes and sizes, the forces which act on a kite are the same for all kites and are shown on this slide. You can compare these forces to the forces acting on an airliner in flight and you will find that, with the tension substituting for thrust, they are exactly the same. The similarity in forces allowed the Wright brothers to test their theories of flight by flying their aircraft as kites from 1900 to 1902.

This page shows a free body diagram of the kite. In a free body diagram, we draw a single object and all of the forces which act on that object. Forces are vectors having both a magnitude and a direction, so we draw each force as an arrow with the length proportional to the magnitude and the head of the arrow pointing in the direction of the force. An important property of vectors is that they can be broken down into perpendicular components, and we can develop scalar equations in each component direction.

On the page, there are three principle forces acting on the kite; the weight, the tension in the line, and the aerodynamic force. The weight W always acts from the center of gravity toward the center of the earth. The aerodynamic force is usually broken into two components (shown in blue); the lift L, which acts perpendicular to the wind, and the drag D, which acts in the direction of the wind. The aerodynamic force acts through the center of pressure. Near the ground, the wind may swirl and gust because of turbulence in the earth's boundary layer. But away from the ground, the wind is fairly constant and parallel to the surface of the earth. In this case, the lift is directly opposed to the weight of the kite, as shown in the figure. The tension in the line acts through the bridle point where the line is attached to the kite bridle. We break the tension into two components, the vertical pull Pv, and the horizontal pull Ph.

When the kite is in stable flight the forces remain constant and there is no net external force acting on the kite, from Newton's first law of motion. In the vertical direction, the sum of the forces is zero. So, the vertical pull plus the weight minus the lift is equal to zero.

Pv + W - L = 0

In the horizontal direction, the sum of the horizontal pull and the drag must also equal zero.

Ph - D = 0

With some knowledge of the kite geometry and the velocity of the wind, we can determine the value of the lift and drag. And with knowledge of the kite geometry and the materials used to make the kite we can determine the weight. We can then solve the two equations given above for the horizontal and vertical components of the tension in the line.

Near the bridle point, the line is inclined at an angle called the bridle angle b. The magnitude of this angle is related to the relative magnitude of the components of the tension.

tan b = Pv / Ph

where tan is the trigonometric tangent function. Knowing the bridle angle, the length of line, and the weight per length of line, you can predict the height at which the kite flies. You can use the KiteModeler program to solve all the equations shown on this slide.

The relative strength of the forces determines the motion of the kite as described by Newton's laws of motion. If a gust of wind strikes the kite, the lift and drag increase. The kite then moves vertically because the lift now exceeds the weight and the vertical pull, and the tension force increases because of increased drag. Eventually a new balance point is established and the kite achieves a different stable condition. Because of the change in relative strength of the aerodynamic and weight forces, the kite also rotates about the bridle point to balance the torques.

strength of the aerodynamic and weight forces, the kite also rotates about the bridle point to

Newton's first law of motion states that every object remains at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. In general, an external force produces both a translation and a rotation of an object. The translation is described by Newton's second law of motion applied to the center of gravity, cg, of the object. In general, the external force is applied at some point other than the cg. If the object is unconstrained, like an aircraft in flight, the object rotates about the cg due to the applied torque about the cg. If the external force is applied at the cg, there is no rotation of an unconstrained object. If the object is constrained at some point, called a pivot, the object rotates about the pivot due to the torque about the pivot. In equilibrium, or balance, there are no net torques about the pivot and the object does not rotate.

In flight, a kite rotates about the bridle point which is the knot that attaches the control line to the bridle string. The kite rotates because of the torques generated by the weight and the aerodynamic forces. On this page, we show the equation which describes the torque about the bridle point.

T = - L * cos(a) * (yb - cp) - L * sin(a) * xb - D * sin(a) * (yb - cp) + D * cos(a) * xb + W * cos(a) * (yb - cg) + W * sin(a) * xb

where T is the net torque with a positive torque being in the clockwise direction. The forces are: L, the lift, D, the drag, and W, the weight. xb and yb are the co-ordinates of the bridle point, cg is the location of the center of gravity and cp is the location of the center of pressure. Sin and cos are the trigonometric sine and cosine functions of the angle a, the angle of attack, The values for the weight and the geometric variables are a constant for a particular design. Therefore, the net torque about the bridle point is a function of the angle of attack. Angle of attack appears explicitly in the equation and also affects the value of the lift and drag forces.

On the slide, we have plotted the net torque versus angle of attack for several different designs. If we can determine an angle of attack which makes the net torque equal to zero, we have a balanced condition and the kite does not rotate in flight. If the plot for a given design does not cross the angle of attack axis, the kite never achieves a balanced condition and continuously rotates about the bridle point. Unbalanced designs are shown in blue for design A and B. Balanced designs are shown for design C and D with the balance point indicated on the figure. But balancing the kite is only part of the design problem. In flight, the kite experiences small changes in the angle of attack due to turbulence in the air. If the torque increases with a slight increase in angle of attack, we have an unstable condition. The increased torque causes the angle of attack to increase, which causes more torque,

which causes more angle of attack

increase in angle of attack from the balance point causes a negative torque, the kite returns to the balance point condition. This condition is called a stable design; any change away from the balance point creates a torque which automatically returns the kite to the balanced condition. For a balanced, stable design, the torque versus angle of attack plot must cross the angle of attack axis, and have a negative slope. Balanced and stable design plots are shown in red as design D.

and the kite rotates out of control. On the other hand, if a small

The mathematical equations involved with the forces and torques on a kite can be solved by using a computer program. You can use the KiteModeler program to further study how kites work and to design your own kites.

Sir Isaac Newton first presented his three laws of motion in the "Principia Mathematica Philosophiae

Sir Isaac Newton first presented his three laws of motion in the "Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis" in 1686. His first law states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. This is normally taken as the definition of inertia. The key point here is that if there is no net force resulting from unbalanced forces acting on an object (if all the external forces cancel each other out), then the object will maintain a constant velocity. If that velocity is zero, then the object remains at rest. And if an additional external force is applied, the velocity will change because of the force. The amount of the change in velocity is determined by Newton's second law of motion.

A kite flying through the air is a good example of this principle. The forces acting on a kite in flight

include the weight, the aerodynamic lift and drag, and the tension in the control line. In stable flight,

these forces are all balanced and the kite holds a fixed altitude. The vertical velocity of the kite is zero.

If the wind increases slightly, the lift and drag increase because the aerodynamic forces depend on

the square of the velocity. The forces on the kite are no longer balanced and there is a net vertical force on the kite. The kite moves vertically because the lift now exceeds the weight and the vertical component of the tension in the control line. As the kite climbs, the tension force increases because of increased lift and drag. The tension force is a vector quantity and we can resolve the force into a horizontal and a vertical pull. As the tension force increases, the vertical pull increases. Eventually a new balance point is established in which the lift balances the weight and the vertical pull. The kite then achieves a new stable flight condition at a slightly higher altitude. If the wind decreases, the lift, drag, and vertical pull all are decreased and the kite achieves a new stable flight condition at a lower altitude.

Sir Isaac Newton first presented his three laws of motion in the "Principia Mathematica Philosophiae

Sir Isaac Newton first presented his three laws of motion in the "Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis" in 1686. His second law defines a force to be equal to the change in momentum with a change in time. Momentum is defined to be the mass m of an object times its velocity V.

Let us assume that we have an airplane at a point "0" defined by its location X0 and time t0. The airplane has a mass m0 and travels at velocity V0. The airplane is subjected to an external force F and moves to a point "1", which is described by a new location X1 and time t1. The mass and velocity of the airplane change during the flight to values m1 and V1. Newton's second law can help us determine the new values of V1 and m1, if we know how big the force F is. Let us just take the difference between the conditions at point "1" and the conditions at point "0".

F = (m1 * V1 - m0 * V0) / (t1 - t0)

Newton's second law talks about changes in momentum (m * V) so, at this point, we can't separate out how much the mass changed and how much the velocity changed. We only know how much product (m * V) changed.

Let us assume that the mass stays a constant value equal to m. This assumption is pretty good for an airplane, the only change in mass would be for the fuel burned between point "1" and point "0". The

weight of the fuel is probably small relative to the weight of the rest of the airplane, especially if we

only look at small changes in time

mass remains a constant. But if we were discussing the flight of a bottle rocket, then the mass does not remain a constant and we can only look at changes in momentum. For a constant mass m, Newton's second law looks like:

If we were discussing the flight of a baseball, then certainly the

F = m * (V1 - V0) / (t1 - t0)

The change in velocity divided by the change in time is the definition of the acceleration a. The second law then reduces to the more familiar product of a mass and an acceleration:

F = m * a

Remember that this relation is only good for objects that have a constant mass. This equation tells us that an object subjected to an external force will accelerate and that the amount of the acceleration is proportional to the size of the force. The amount of acceleration is also inversely proportional to the mass of the object; for equal forces, a heavier object will experience less acceleration than a lighter object. Considering the momentum equation, a force causes a change in velocity; and likewise, a change in velocity generates a force. The equation works both ways.

The velocity, force, acceleration, and momentum have both a magnitude and a direction associated with them. Scientists and mathematicians call this a vector quantity. The equations shown here are actually vector equations and can be applied in each of the component directions. We have only looked at one direction, and, in general, an object moves in all three directions (up-down, left-right, forward-back).

The motion of an aircraft resulting from aerodynamic forces, aircraft weight, and thrust can be computed by using the second law of motion.

thrust can be computed by using the second law of motion. An excellent way to g

An excellent way to gain an understanding and a feel for aerodynamic forces is to fly a kite. Kite flying is fun when done safely and you can study many of the fundamentals of airplane aerodynamics because a kite works very much like an airplane. As with an airplane, there are some geometrical definitions which will simplify our studies of kite aerodynamics. Kites come a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but the definitions found on this page can be applied to most kites.

This page shows a three view diagram of a winged box kite. In a three view diagram, an object is shown from the front, side, and top with all three views drawn to the same scale. We use three view diagrams because some geometrical variables are easier to visualize in one view than in another.

Beginning with the Front View, we note that the surface area-A which is used in the calculation of lift and drag is the frontal projected area of all of the surfaces of the kite. You learn how to compute the area of various shaped objects in middle school. For this winged box kite, the frontal projected area includes the full area of both wings (colored yellow) and the projected area of the top and bottom boxes (colored green). Notice that this is a projected area, not a geometric area. If each panel of the box kite is a square, there are four panels on the top and four on the bottom to form the two boxes.

From the Top View, we see that each panel is inclined to the front at a 45 degree angle. Then the projected area Ap of each panel is equal to the geometric area Ag times the cosine cos of 45 degrees:

Ap = Ag * cos(45 degrees) = .707 * Ag

If the geometric area is slanted to the front then the frontal projected area is always less than the geomtric area. The top and front view also help us define the span-s of the kite. The span is the widest distance from side to side. It is the same as the wing span of an airplane, the distance from one wing tip to the other wing tip. The ratio of the square of the span to the area A is called the Aspect Ratio AR of the kite.

AR = s^2 / A

This parameter is very important in the determination of lift and drag of the kite. Airplane wings typically have a very long span and have a high aspect ratio. Kites on the other hand usually have a small span and are low aspect ratio aircraft. High aspect ratio aircraft have a higher lift to drag ratio than a low aspect ratio aircraft and are more aerodynamically efficient.

The Side View helps us locate the center of gravity-cg and the center of pressure-cp of the kite. The center of gravity is the average location of the weight of the kite, and the weight force acts through this point. Similarly, the center of pressure is the average location of the aerodynamic forces on the kite, and the lift and drag act through this point. There are techniques to determine the weight, cg, and cp which are described on separate pages. On the front of the kite (to the left in this side view) we attach a bridle string. The bridle length-b is the length of the string from one end attached to the top to the other end attached to the bottom of our kite. It is always longer than the height-h of the kite, so there is some slack in this string. A knot is used to attach the control line to the bridle at a spot called the bridle point. The knot length-k is the distance from the bottom to the knot along the bridle string. The knot length and the bridle length determine the location of the bridle point. In flight, the kite rotates about the bridle point. A kite's stability is determined by the magnitude of the forces and the distance of the cg and cp from the bridle point.

The KiteModeler computer program can be used to calculate the various geometric variables described on this page and their effects on kite performance.

An excellent way for students to gain a feel for aerodynamic forces is to fly

An excellent way for students to gain a feel for aerodynamic forces is to fly a kite. Kite flying is fun when done safely and you can learn many of the fundamentals of airplane aerodynamics because a kite is very much like an airplane. In fact, the Wright brothers used kites and gliders to learn the fundamentals before their first successful airplane flight.

Like an airplane, a kite is a heavier than air craft. Kites depend on surfaces to generate the aerodynamic forces necessary for flight and use rigid structures to support the surfaces and transmit the forces. Differen kites. have different types of surfaces and structures; on this slide we show a simple box kite. The left side of the figure shows the kite as it would appear in flight and the right side shows the inner structure.

Kite flying is a delicate balance between aerodynamic forces, the weight of the parts of the kite, and the distribution of these forces. In flight, the kite is connected to the flyer by the control line and the flyer can feel the tension in the line created by the aerodynamic forces on the kite. The line is connected to the kite by a string bridle. The place where the bridle connects to the line is called the bridle point and the kite pivots about this point in flight. The bridle point can be adjusted to change the flight characteristics of the kite. The surfaces of the kite are covered by a thin covering of paper, plastic, or cloth, which deflects the wind downward and creates the aerodynamic forces of lift and drag on the kite.

If we remove the covering, we can see the structure which transmits the aerodynamic forces to the bridle. A box kite structure is made from several sticks and some string. The sticks can be made of a light but strong piece of wood such as balsa or bamboo, or a light but strong plastic tube. In the box kite, there are four main "leg" pieces of equal length and four "cross" pieces which are made from two sticks. The structure is held together with strings wrapped around the legs at the location of the cross members. The surface covering is attached to the strings. Notice that the structure is small, light and strong. It must be made strong to withstand the forces of the wind and weight, but it must also be light to keep the weight low. To save weight, only two "cross" pieces are used on some box kites. The trade of strength and weight must be considered in every flying thing from a kite to a large airliner. Compare the structure and coverings of this box kite with the Wright brother's 1900 aircraft and note how similar they are.