The University of Michigan has been named an Air Force Research Laboratory Center for Aerospace Vehicle Development (CAVD). Aerospace Professor Joaquim Martins will serve as the Principal Investigator for this partnership, which will encompass a variety of distinct studies centered on optimizing aircraft design and analysis.
As head of the Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) Laboratory Professor Martins will spearhead development of a computational framework for analyzing and optimizing aircraft. He explains:
“I’ve had a passion for airplanes since I was a little kid. As an undergrad, this research expanded to the disciplines that are required for aircraft design – like aerodynamics, structures, [and] propulsion. Later on, in graduate school, I became more interested in computational techniques that can help in aircraft design.”
With their inherent complexity, aircraft systems can be notoriously difficult to simulate in high-fidelity. In a recent collaboration with NASA, Martins developed a gradient-based numerical modeling framework capable of analyzing hundreds of coupled design variables automatically to generate an optimized aircraft configuration. The results of Martins’ simulations have been validated empirically through wind tunnel testing and by comparisons to other numerical models.
Martins will leverage his previous modeling breakthroughs for the AFRL CAVD investigation.
“All of our previous work helped us learn, more than anything, what not to do. It usually takes 2 to 3 rewrites to really get your algorithms just right. In this case, we are coming in with a computational framework with state-of-the-art numerical methods. We will now be able to learn from AFRL’s strength in geographically distributed networks (allowing researchers to work from different locations) to create a [unified] framework.”
Currently, Martins oversees 11 graduate students; as the five-year Michigan-AFRL collaboration allows for a “full Ph.D. [candidacy] from beginning to end,” he anticipates bringing on others as the CAVD efforts ramp up in Fall 2017.