Revolutionising the speed of aerodynamic design
The unstructured mesh technology, developed by Swansea researchers and included in the computational aerodynamics design system FLITE, has been of significant economic benefit to the aerospace industry. Using the FLITE system, aerodynamic simulations, which had previously often required several months to complete, could now be completed overnight.
Early research on the application of unstructured mesh methods in aerodynamics was undertaken with the support of NASA Langley Research Centre and further detailed research was supported by BAE Systems and DRA.
The FLITE unstructured mesh technology was supplied to BAE Systems in 1994 and the software was modified and industrialised to a point where the FLITE suite became their standard aerodynamic design tool. BAE Systems considered that the implementation of the FLITE approach led to a step change in their design process, enabling highly complex modern aerospace configurations to be analysed in short timescales. The FLITE system was heavily used by Airbus during the aerodynamic design of the A380 and it has also been utilised by a number of international organisations, such as Cassidian in Munich and IHPC in Singapore.
The FLITE system was also key to the success of the THRUST SSC project, which took the World Land Speed Record beyond the speed of sound in 1997. The aerodynamic design of THRUST SSC was undertaken using FLITE, which enabled the correct modelling of the interaction between the moving vehicle and the ground.
The feasibility of creating an aerodynamic shape capable of safely achieving 1000mph on land was demonstrated in an initial study using the FLITE system. This enabled Lord Drayson to officially launch the BLOODHOUND SSC project in October 2008. Since that time, FLITE has been used to guide the shaping of the external geometry of the BLOODHOUND SSC vehicle to its fully mature current design. The use of FLITE in this project has also contributed to a significant activity in public engagement in science and engineering, including a large scale education programme in which over 5,000 schools have been involved.