AE Aero Capstone: LUDWIG

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By Vee Glessner, Chief Copy Editor

AE Aero team “LUDWIG” (Lightweight Uniform Design With Improved Glide-ratio) is picking up where an experimental NASA project left off. The concept is a competitor for the SGS-232, a sail-plane glider. “It’s basically a pilot flying a kite,” says Team Lead Stevie Casillas. Their glider is a flying wing, which is unconventional due to issues with the stability of this type of profile. 

LUDWIG is inspired by NASA project PRANDTL-D, which was started by Al Bowers in 2015. According to NASA, “Bowers was fascinated by the ability of birds to overcome adverse yaw and set out to prove why birds don’t have or need vertical tails.” Although that project didn’t pass the experimental stages, Bowers began the work on the concept which paved the way for LUDWIG’s flying wing glider. The acronyms are a nod to 1930s German aerodynamicist Ludwig Prandtl.

The team is in the process of wind-tunnel testing their model, which has a 32-inch half span. The full size, two-person glider, would have a 65-foot wingspan. “We are going to verify our theoretical XFLR5 data,” says assistant team lead Zach MacAllister. “We want to know that we can actually put people in it to fly.”

As for whether they’re on track to accomplish their goals, MacAllister says, “heck yeah.” However, the team did have to descope along the way to ensure they hadn’t bitten off more than they could chew. “It’s not necessarily everything that we set out to do at the very beginning,” says MacAllister. On top of the design work, they originally wanted to create a remote control model. “That portion of our goals has changed, but we are going to do two wind tunnel tests.”

LUDWIG would like to thank Dr. Dorfling, Dr. Beck, the RPL shop staff, AXFAB machinists, and especially Dr. Morris: “We never would have found this project and fallen in love with it without his infatuation with this theory,” says Casillas. “You should have seen Dr. Morris when we got to do our wind tunnel test; he was jumping like a little kid.”

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