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A book for designing RC aircraft

  1. Dec 6, 2014 #1
    I am looking for a book that teaches how to design an RC aircraft, given performance specifications:

    $$v_{stall}, v_{max}, m_{payload}, h_{max}$$

    That is, given the stall speed, max. speed, payload and service ceiling, I'd like to know how to design the aircraft's air-frame (wing span, airfoil, etc). There are already numerous book on the subject, but they all either consider big commercial aircrafts, or are designed for hobbyist (i.e. hand waving style). I am looking for rigorous presentation.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2014 #2


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    I'm not sure there is one. You can find polars for airfoil shapes (like using XFOIL), but those are "2d" models, and you'd need to take wing size, aspect ratio, and Reynolds number into account, in order to find stall speed. Maximum speed is determined by the power versus drag, or the speed at which the model starts to flutter and/or self destruct. If using an electric motor, then lack of an oxygen source in thin atmosphere is not an issue, but having a large enough energy source to climb to high altitudes is an issue, with the exception of solar powered models, like the Pathfinder Plus, which exceeded 80,000 feet == 24384 meters. Model gliders have been dropped from weather type balloons at higher still altitudes.
  4. Dec 6, 2014 #3
    Thanks, I would have liked a documented resource where I can see these discussions presented mathematically.

    BTW, I am not looking into any altitude above 100-200 meters.
  5. Dec 16, 2014 #4


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    For all practical purposes, atmospheric properties won't vary over 100-200 meters, so any model which can fly with a reasonable climb rate at the ground will do the same at those heights. Payload mass will largely depend on what you want your stall speed to be, and top speed will largely depend on your power supply. There's no fundamental difference between a model aircraft and a full size aircraft in any of these regards, so you should be able to use the standard design methodologies and formulas (there will be slight variations due to the much lower reynolds number, but it should at least get you pretty close).
  6. Dec 16, 2014 #5
    Thank you!
  7. Dec 23, 2014 #6
    Second @cjl on that. From what I've learned from other aerospace engineers I work with, designing an RC aircraft isn't much different from designing a real aircraft (except that RC is much much simpler w.r.t. the things you have to make for it and FAA regs). You have to pick an airfoil, a wingspan, a speed range, etc. There are a lot of materials on flight dynamics you can use to familiarize yourself with.

    For selecting airfoils, there's a huge database here that you can select one from: http://m-selig.ae.illinois.edu/ads/coord_database.html
    If you want some sort of numerical simulation of how that airfoil will perform, check out MIT's AVL simulator: http://web.mit.edu/drela/Public/web/avl/
  8. Jan 5, 2015 #7
    What you're asking for is discussed in undergraduate student vehicle design courses (usually in the senior year as a capstone project where they build/fly their designs). You should be able to find resources online at various universities. Here's a Texas A&M University course syllabus I googled. Lists the following references:
    1. Roskam, Jan, Airplane Design: Part I-VIII, Design, Analysis, and Research Corporation, Lawrence, KS, 1989.
    2. Abbott, Ira H., and Von Doenhoff, Albert E., Theory of Wing Sections, Dover Publications, New York, 1959.
    3. Austin, Reg. Unmanned Aircraft Systems UAVS Design, Development and Deployment, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., Blacksburg, VA, 2010.
    4. “A Systems Engineering Approach to Aircraft Design”, Prof. Dimitri N. Mavris Director, Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL), 2012
    5. Bruhn, E. F., Analysis and Design of Flight Vehicle Structures, Tri-State Offset Company, Cincinnati, OH, 1965.
    6. Chevalier, Howard L., P. E., Model Aircraft Design & Performance for the Modeler, Professor Emeritus, Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M, Challenge Engineering, New Braden, TX 1994.
    7. Jane's all the World's Aircraft, Jane's Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.
    8. Lan, Chuan-Tau, and Roskam, Jan, Airplane Aerodynamics and Performance, Design, Analysis, and Research Corporation, Lawrence, KS, 1997.
    9. MIL-STD-499B, MILITARY STANDARD SYSTEMS ENGINEERING, Joint OSD/Services/Industry Working Group as agent for HQ AFMC/EN DRAFT- 6 May 94.
    10. Nicolai, Leland M. and Carichner, Grant E., Fundamentals of Aircraft and Airship Design Volume I – Airplane Design, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., Reston, VA, 2010.
    11. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, U.S. Department of Transportation, Flight Standards Service, rev. ed. (2008), prepared by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
    12. Rae, William H. Jr., and Pope, Alan, Low-Speed Wind Tunnel Testing, Wiley-Interscience, NY, 1984.
    13. Raymer, Daniel P., Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach, Fourth Edition, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., Reston, VA, 2006
    14. Roskam, Jan, Airplane Flight Dynamics and Automatic Flight Control, Part I, Design, Analysis, and Research Corporation, Lawrence, KS, 1994.
    15. “Systems Engineering – A fundamental Concept of Design”, Dr. Armund J. Chaput, Adjunct Professor, University of Texas, Austin, TX, 2012 (excerpt: ASE 361 Course Material)
    16. Tennekes, Henk, The Simple Science of Flight, The MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, London, England, 1997.

    Jan Roskam is from U. of Kansas, where he started an excellent aircraft design course.
  9. Feb 8, 2015 #8
    I'm not what level of detail you want to work to. However the Javafoil tool is invaluable in aerofoil down selection.


    Martin Simons Model Aircraft Aerodynamics is a balanced source, not too complex yet not too simplistic in my opinion.

    As previously mentioned Roskam is excellent.
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