Oct 11, 2016 | By Benedict

Doug Hunsaker, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Utah State University (USU), has developed a free online program that generates aerodynamic information about 3D aircraft designs. The software, called MachUp, also features tutorials and how-to videos.

With public interest in drone technology showing no sign of slowing down, amateur builders and drone startups are constantly on the lookout for new software and hardware that will improve their DIY aircraft. Doug Hunsaker, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at USU, has just made life a whole lot easier for designers of such aircraft, releasing a free online program which automatically generates complex aerodynamic data relating to a particular 3D aircraft design. This handy tool, called MachUp, could potentially revolutionize the drone industry by eliminating much of the turbulence caused by tricky aerodynamic rules and equations.

Hunsaker’s new program is not only incredibly useful from an aircraft design perspective, it is also extremely easy to use, being accessible through a web browser on any platform, including smartphones and tablets. The software also comes with a number of tutorials and walk-through videos which make it incredibly easy for a budding designer to generate an aircraft which not only looks the part, but will also fly. “MachUp lets a user design an aircraft, and the software will calculate aerodynamic information about that design,” said Hunsaker. “The program will generate lift, drag, stability and trim data for any design you put into it.”

The interface of MachUp is relatively simple, with the 3D model of the aircraft displayed in the browser. The hard work, however, is being done behind the scenes: heavy-duty aerodynamic equations are computed on a dedicated server, giving designers the kind of in-depth aerodynamic analysis that would usually come with a hefty price tag. “The average Joe does not have access to this kind of software,” Hunsaker added. “And if they did, it would be prohibitively expensive for the average user or small startup company.”

Businesses from all sectors are starting to see the possibilities afforded by drone technology, with companies like Google and Amazon already way ahead in terms of developing drone systems for wireless internet coverage and package delivery, respectively. Since drone applications can be so varied, however, all unmanned aircraft need to be built in specific way. Using MachUp, businesses will be able to design a drone which suits their needs in terms of size, shape, and functionality, without having to compute the difficult math themselves.

“For years, we've been imagining drones doing everything from delivering packages to monitoring freeway traffic and performing security functions,” said Hunsaker. “But because each mission is different, each of those applications will require a unique drone that will have to be designed for safe and efficient operation.”

Several U.S. companies and aerospace engineering schools have already started using MachUp, including Embry Riddle, Virginia Tech, and MIT. The software is also used by USU’s Aggie Air agriculture research program.

Have a fixed-wing aircraft design but struggling with aerodynamics? Try MachUp here.



Posted in 3D Design



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