Virtual prototyping tool gets 'flying car' ready for production - Embedded.com

Virtual prototyping tool gets ‘flying car’ ready for production

Terrafugia Inc. (Woburn, MA) has used ANSYS Inc.'s engineering simulation software to design and verify its production prototype of the Transition aircraft that also can drive on the highway.

The latest version of the vehicle was shown at the recent EAA AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Terrafugia engineers conducted whole-vehicle airflow tests that assessed the effects of design changes on overall performance — working in parallel across the various Transition components. The simulations were used to maximize wing lift in the air and to minimize the effects of crosswinds along the road.

“The Transition’s test flights identified some important engineering issues that ANSYS fluid dynamics software helped us to address in the production prototype,” said Gregor Cadman, an engineer at Terrafugia. “Our latest design improves both the in-air and on-road performance of the Transition, as well as ensures that the vehicle lends itself to full-scale manufacturing.

“Without the ability to work in a virtual environment, we would have had to construct complicated physical models, modify or rebuild them, and conduct hours of real-world testing, slowing down the process and adding significantly to development costs,” added Cadman.

The Transition is the world’s first vehicle to combine a lightweight, aerodynamic aircraft with the stability needed for long-distance driving on the highway. The vehicle can cruise up to 490 miles at over 105 miles per hour, can drive at highway speeds on the road, and is capable of transforming from plane to car in less than 30 seconds.

The design features foldable wings that span more than 26 feet, a rear-wheel-drive system for the road and a propeller for flight. Terrafugia’s team of aeronautical engineers earned global attention when the Transition proof-of-concept vehicle completed a successful 60-second test flight in March 2009. The company expects to begin commercial production of the vehicle in 2011.

A video of the test flight in March 2009.

The Terrafugia engineering team also studied the impact of the Transition’s propeller on air flows around the vehicle using the the ANSYS tools. As the project developed over time, engineers applied simulation tools to study ever-smaller and more precise design modifications, which added to their confidence that the Transition will perform well in flight testing.

Greg Stuckert, aerospace industry manager at ANSYS said, “Terrafugia’s use of engineering simulation to fine-tune designs throughout the development process — not just at the end for verification — contributed to an optimized historic vehicle and an efficient product launch. Their earlier successful test flights and this year’s production prototype are the proof that their efforts are paying off.”

ANSYS Inc.

Terrafugia Inc.

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