Physics Wing Design

Preliminary Wing Calculations

The physics team began the preliminary wing design by researching and selecting an airfoil profile. We chose the Clark-Y because of its popularity in ultralight aircraft and desirable properties such as a tame and “mushy” stall. To get a conceptual starting point for the required reference area, we examined similar ultralight airplanes and their wing designs and noticed the reference area typically ranges from around 120sqft to about 180sqft. One specification of ultralight aircraft is that they must have a stall speed at or below 24 knots. Based on an estimate of the maximum lift coefficient of the Clark-Y profile and the 24 knot stall speed limitation, we were able to write the following equation to solve for the minimum reference area:

This resulted in a reference area of approximately 166sqft which fits right within the anticipated range. We then looked through a few textbooks to approximate an aspect ratio, or the ratio between the wingspan and the chord and decided upon a range of 4-7. Here’s a quick conceptual comparison:

It’s important to note that lift induced drag constitutes the vast majority of the drag on a wing. That’s part of the reason why high-efficiency, high lift airplanes like gliders have such long wings! With this in mind, we opted to start with an aspect ratio of 6 which gives us a wingspan of 30ft and a chord of 5ft.
*Editors note: the thought processes and design choices presented in this article don’t necessarily represent those implemented into the final design and are subject to change. Flight Club Aerospace is a group of amateur students with no formal education in any field of engineering. We present this information for educational purposes only, with the understanding that it is not to be re-created without adequate professional oversight and mentorship. For our latest designs and updates, please see our most recent blog posts.

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