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Talk-18: Rigid Wingsail Geometry Optimization and Performance Validation

Blake Cole, MIT/WHOI, Dr. Peter Traykovski, WHOI

The rigid wingsail is an increasingly popular means of extracting energy from the wind for surface vessel propulsion. However, the academic literature currently contains very little in the way of formal wingsail design and performance analysis. Wing shape optimization is not a new concept; indeed, the aerospace industry has been investigating efficient wing shapes for many decades. However, the physics of sailing imposes unique constraints on the objective function, yielding non-intuitive designs. This preliminary work proposes a novel wingsail geometry optimization framework based on first-principles. A simple, straight-tapered wing can be described in terms of four design parameters: planform area, effective aspect ratio, taper ratio, and aerofoil profile thickness ratio. The theoretically optimal wingsail geometry that which maximizes vessel thrust depends on the nominal apparent wind speed, hull stability, and the mass density of the wingsail itself. However, the real world is rarely so simple; unsteady flow dynamics and boundary layer separation may undermine the proposed approach. Accordingly, this work also describes the design and construction of a data acquisition platform which can quantitatively assess the efficacy of various wingsail designs.


  • USVs
  • Autonomous Sailing