Water Tank Experiment Setup and Integration for Amphibious Aircraft Design Research (HKUST and SJTU)
Project Description

Amphibious aircraft is one example of a complex engineering system that has not been properly optimized due to the complex design challenges and lack of data required to develop a suitable design framework. Unlike conventional aircraft, amphibious aircraft can takeoff and land both on water and on ground-based runways. The unique capabilities of amphibious aircraft to operate both in water and on land, while providing versatility and competitive advantages to conventional ground-based aircraft, impose significant challenges in the design and development. The key challenge lies in the fact that an amphibious aircraft design must strike a balance between aerodynamic and hydrodynamic performances, airworthiness and seaworthiness, water stability, spray, and buoyancy. Analyses involved in an amphibious aircraft design problem range from expensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for the aerodynamic and hydrodynamic analyses, to simple empirical models for the less studied analyses (e.g., hull resistance computation). The only currently available models of hull resistance are empirical models based on outdated experiments on a limited number of hull designs. These data and models limit the accuracy of amphibious aircraft design, and will deem our analysis results meaningless. Moreover, the hull parameterization is still lacking as well, i.e., we do not have sufficient information on how the change in the hull geometry and shape will affect the hull performance. In the proposed collaboration, we aim to use the multifunction water towing tank facility at SJTU to perform the necessary experiments and measurements to build the hull resistance database. Once incorporated to the amphibious aircraft design framework, we hope to use this framework to help bring revolutionary technological improvement to amphibious aircraft design. e.g., by optimizing the shape of the hull and hydrofoils.

LIEM Rhea Patricia
Course type
Applicant's Roles

UROP students will work on performing theoretical analyses, designing the necessary experiments, carrying out the experiments, obtaining and analyzing the measurement data.

The work can be split into two UROP students at any given semester.

Applicant's Learning Objectives

The students involved in this project will gain knowledge on (1) aircraft design, (2) design of experiments, and (3) prototype design and manufacturing, in addition to gaining invaluable international exposure and experience. Students will be involved in the experiment planning (i.e., how to gain the most out of the limited time and budget) and will have to work harmoniously in a team.

Aircraft design is never a straightforward process, due to the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of the system. Changing one parameter will have different, often conflicting, implications on the different disciplines (e.g., aerodynamics and structures). These couplings are typically not obvious, and largely depend on the specific aircraft design at hand. Essentially, an aircraft design process is like a chicken-and-egg problem. Designing an amphibious aircraft increases the complexity multifold, since we now need to simultaneously consider the aerodynamic and hydrodynamic performances. Through this project, students will be exposed to the system engineering approach of a complex system, instead of focusing on each component in isolation. The students will also learn and have first hand experience on some key elements on complex system design, including tradeoff studies and sensitivity analyses.

Complexity of the project