Dynamic soaring of sailplanes over open fields

Pritam P. Sukumar, Michael S. Selig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Dynamic soaring of a sailplane in the earth's atmospheric boundary layer was computationally investigated over a range of conditions to explore the feasibility of flying over a large vertical extent over open fields. A point-mass sailplane model was studied as well as a full six degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) piloted sailplane model. For the point-mass model, parameter sweeps were performed around a baseline 3-m (9.58-ft) wingspan sailplane having a weight of 15 kg (33 lb) and aspect ratio of 20. Results from the point-mass model show that in certain high wind conditions, dynamic soaring energy-conserving orbits are possible for flight trajectories extending from the ground to 185 m (607 ft) aloft. A 6-DOF piloted flight simulator was used, and it produced similar results that showed dynamic soaring over open fields for large vertical extents. Together these results support the conclusion that it is possible to perform dynamic soaring in high wind conditions through the full extent of the atmospheric boundary layer to high altitudes over open land with model-scale unpowered sailplanes having both high wing loadings and high lift-to-drag ratios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication28th AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc.
ISBN (Print)9781617389269
StatePublished - 2010

Publication series

Name28th AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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