NASA is best known for its space-related content, and perhaps for its Earth sciences work, but few know about the agency’s airflow simulations. NASA has, it recently said, been creating airflow simulations for various aircraft for ‘decades.’ These computer models show air as it flows around, for example, an airplane, aiding in the development of designs and similar things. It’s not surprising, then, that NASA would create the same simulations for drones.
The video below shows a simulation of the airflow around a quadcopter drone, in this case a DJI Phantom 3 model. The work was performed by NASA’s Ames Research Center located in California, and it was recently presented at this year’s American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum in Texas.
The simulation helps researchers understand and ‘explore’ quadcopter-styled drone aerodynamics, at least as far as they relate to small and lightweight consumer-level offerings.
As you can see in the simulation, the Phantom has a total of four rotors, and the air flow produced by each one is quite choppy and complex, no doubt due in part to each rotor’s airflow competing with the airflow from the other three.
Taking things a step further, NASA says the researchers added another four rotors into the mix to find out what happens. As you’d probably expect, the drone’s thrust increased after doubling the number of rotors.