Urban Air Mobility: Accelerating Innovation with Conceptual Structural Optimization

What is Urban Air Mobility?

Simply put, urban air mobility is the future of air transportation. In relation to ground transportation, we think about electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles as the future. So, what does the future of air look like?  

One of the most exciting emerging technologies around urban air mobility refers to vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOL), and more specifically, those that are designed to be electrically powered (eVTOL). Whilst this is a relatively new idea in the urban air mobility space, there are already several startups in the pipeline, making this an already competitive market. It is therefore essential to ensure that the conceptual structures of eVTOL designs are innovative and optimised to have an edge the over competition. 

Urban Air Mobility

Accelerating Innovation with Conceptual Structural Optimization

In the conceptual design phase of electric urban air mobility, one of the primary targets is to design the most lightweight vehicle structure possible, to ensure that the worries around battery density are offset. 

To do this, the appropriate configuration and sizing of the airframe structure need to be determined. This can be a challenging task, and to achieve this goal, it is essential to make the best use of optimization technologies. 

Parametric Design of the Airframe Structure 

To get started, it is vital to building a parametric model of the internal airframe structure, considering external surfaces of previously developed eVTOL design as input. Different internal airframe components such as ribs, front and rear spar, pylon bulkheads, floor structure, front and rear bulkhead, centre wing box, and stringers all must be considered too.  

Flight Loads Equilibrium 

Next, it is important to consider the equilibrium needed for flight loads. External loads in critical flight conditions must be balanced for structural sizing. In any given flight condition, the vehicle is subjected to aerodynamic loads, rotor forces, gravity, and inertia loads, meaning all these elements need to be thought about carefully. 

Aerodynamic Pressure Mapping 

It is also necessary to consider the aerodynamics involved and the pressure mapping requirements. This is needed to fully understand the ways in which the internal structure and external materials of the flight craft will be affected during flight. This can be done by producing a parametric design; a structural finite element model which can be utilised to see how aerodynamics and pressure will impact the product. 

Parametric Design Study 

It is then essential to consider the various design responses such as stresses, displacements, and mass, and how these will affect your design. We would recommend producing a parametric simulation model which will allow you to experiment with your design and determine where changes need to be made.  

Parametric and Non-Parametric Structural Optimization 

Parametric optimization and non-parametric sizing techniques are the optimization techniques most widely used in various industrial fields for structural optimization. The objective of the parametric optimization is to minimize the total structural mass subject to a stress constraint and a displacement constraint. In non-parametric optimization, an initial outer boundary of the geometry is defined and the optimization process either removes mass without changing the node locations in the calculation mesh (topology optimization) or directly manipulates the node locations (shape optimization) to achieve a desired objective. 

Get the Right Tools for the Job

Urban air mobility offers a new, bold and exciting market. Whilst climate awareness is one obvious reason why there is such great interest in electric flight, it also promises big advantages over conventional flight even beyond its environmental benefits. Driven by electric motors, eVTOL are cheap to operate and can manoeuvre precisely while being quieter than conventional helicopters.  

eVTOLs designs are revolutionary compared to an aircraft and many eVTOL start-ups have selected the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to accelerate conceptual design with seamless integration of design, Multiphysics and optimization. 

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform brings together Dassault Systèmes products, including both design and simulation tools, in one place. A centralised data repository acts as a single source of truth for all design data while maintaining control of who can access which information 

Here’s how the applications within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform can help you optimise your designs to allow you to become a leader in this new and exciting market: 

  • CATIA xGenerative Design: The CATIA xGenerative Design application allows one to design the internal airframe structure using a combination of graphical visual scripting and the interactive 3D modelling interface 
  • Virtual Twin: Simulation can supplement measurement—and even sometimes replace it. The ‘Virtual Twin’ approach builds a digital model of the product which includes all the relevant data and contains enough information to accurately model real-world behaviour 
  • MODSIM: To shorten the time to market, deal with complexity, and achieve a competitive advantage, companies are relying on science-based modelling and simulation (MODSIM) at all stages of the product lifecycle. As a result, they require less real-world prototyping and enjoy faster physical certification testing—getting more innovative products to market faster 
Find out more about how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform can assist you and get in touch today.  

Don’t just take our word for it: See how Vertical Aerospace leverage 3DEXPERIENCE to Reinvent the Sky

Vertical Aerospace Case Study

Vertical Aerospace is building its revolutionary electric aircraft and defining its processes on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the Cloud with our Reinvent the Sky industry solution experience. This gives the company access to enterprise-level design, engineering and simulation software in a single, secure, standards-based environment.

With all its operations running on the cloud, Vertical Aerospace has the agility it needs to accelerate product development. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform supports the company’s efforts to develop its product and processes in parallel and build a virtual twin of its aircraft that incorporates all disciplines and operations. This will help the company to navigate the complex certification process and maintain full traceability throughout the lifecycle of the aircraft.

“We’re in the process of writing a new chapter in the aviation industry,”Eric Samson, Head of Engineering said. “We’re working with emerging technologies, including intuitive and safe flight control technologies from Honeywell. At the same time, we’re defining a new certification basis and collaborating with leading companies around the globe. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform will help us to develop and share the critical steps of requirements, ensure we’re developing the aircraft according to those requirements, do validation and also manage the certification of the aircraft with the authorities. It’s a one-stop-shop and single source of truth for Vertical Aerospace and our business partners that allows us to work concurrently wherever we are in the world.”

Read the Full Case Study

Are you ready to Reinvent the Sky? Get in touch today.





Study of Parametric and Non-Parametric Optimization of a Rotor-Bearing System | Request PDF (researchgate.net)