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AIAA 2002-0388 Performance of Hybrid Air Vehicles

Dr. Robert R. Boyd SkyCat Technologies Inc. Santa Maria, CA

40th Aerospace Sciences Meeting & Exhibit 12-15 January 2002 Reno, Nevada
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Dr. Robert R. Boyd SkyCat Technologies Inc., Santa Maria, CA Abstract The emergence of the Hybrid Air Vehicle (HAV) as a solution to middle market cargo demands, long endurance manned surveillance, and a variety of specialty missions brings to the forefront a Introduction Recent interest in Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAVs), defined as flight vehicles combining lift generated from both aerodynamic and buoyant sources, has sparked discussion as to the performance advantages and disadvantages of this type of flight vehicle in the commercial or military markets. To assist in this debate, performance methods and equations are derived and described for HAVs. HAV performance is not adequately described by either aircraft or airship methods alone, both require adjustment from basic principles to yield a sensible result. Commonly held assumptions that maximum liftto-drag is constant with velocity, as in aircraft analysis, or that induced drag is negligible, as in airship analysis, fail when describing a hybrid vehicle. * Chief Technical Officer Member, AIAA Aerodynamically, these vehicles are lifting bodies, with relatively large upper surfaces carrying relatively little

Figure 1. Example Hybrid Air Vehicle

Copyright 2001 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved
need to understand the unique performance characteristics of this class of aircraft. HAVs combine buoyant lift, like and airship, with aerodynamic lift, like an airplane, to provide an air vehicle that provides excellent operating economics in certain operating speed ranges. The HAV is not well characterized by either airplane-derived or airship-derived relations; this paper defines some of the top-level relationships and outlines key technical drivers for robust economic performance. The implicit sensitivity to both speed and size sets this type of vehicle apart from other flight vehicles, yielding unique design constraints and objectives. When optimized carefully, HAVs can achieve reductions in shipping cost per ton-mile of more than 60% over existing aircraft and achieve airborne endurance of several days without refueling. pressure per unit area (Figure 1). Weight and fuel fractions typical of current commercial aircraft also do not apply well to HAVs, yielding substantially different performance results, such as dramatically extended payload-range curves and long endurance times. As an example, a representative HAV under development, the SkyCat 20 (Figure 1), can stay aloft without refueling for more than 5 days while carrying mission equipment, crew, supplies, and sleeping quarters. For surveillance missions, this compares well with current UAVs and offers an order of magnitude improvement over current manned platforms. HAVs also carry significantly more weight in payload than airships of similar size and are much less sensitive to weather effects. The resulting improvement in cost per ton-mile translates directly into economic benefit in long-range cargo at speeds of approximately 100 knots. The combination of aerodynamic and buoyant lift yields unexpected

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performance benefits over existing air vehicles, creating a market niche as yet unfilled by any other vehicle. This paper outlines a particular form of the basic equations, focusing on the effects of speed and scale in performance of a Hybrid Air Vehicle. Basic Equations Critical to the understanding of the differences between HAVs and either aircraft or airships is the concept of efficiency, often stated for aircraft in terms of lift-to-drag ratio (L/D). As for any steady, level, flight, one can utilize the force-balance derived form relating L/D to thrust, shown in equation 1.
2 La + Lb 1/ 2 V S CL + g Q L = system= D 1/ 2 V 2 S CD D


C 2 g Q L system= L + CD CD V 2 S D


T = L W

( D )system


The subscript system refers to the fact that for HAVs, the L/D ratio is not simply a measure of aerodynamic lift over aerodynamic drag, but a measure of total lift divided by aerodynamic drag. In buoyant vehicles, lift can be gained without necessarily incurring drag. As an example, consider a hovering airship at zero velocity. If the ship is neutrally buoyant, lift equals weight and drag equals thrust. At zero velocity, there is lift, yet no drag, so L/D becomes undefined. If the airship moves forward at a slow speed, the drag increases past zero, and the L/D is very large, often 50 or more. Airships are well known for extremely low fuel consumption, so the idea tracks the trend. For aircraft, the L/D measure is well known, and varies with angle-of-attack, but not velocity, for relatively low Mach numbers. HAVs fall in between, combining buoyant lift and aerodynamic lift and the form varies accordingly. It is most graphically shown by the following derivation. For an HAV, the aerodynamic quantities can be defined as usual:

La = 1 / 2 V 2 SCL

D = 1 / 2 V 2 SCD

Note the non-buoyant case (=0), reduces to the familiar form. The result of interest shows that unlike aircraft, for which L/D is constant with velocity, or for airships, where L/D is typically not considered, the HAV possesses a unique form for the characteristic efficiency. The efficiency increases dramatically with decreasing velocity and increases with increasing Q/S. The size scaling term Q/S, hereafter defined simply as , relates the ratio of envelope (helium) volume to reference lift area. For HAVs, an appropriate choice for reference area is either planform area or hull wetted area. Using planform area gives lift coefficient values that track well with angle of attack, providing good comparison to aircraft. For a given photo-scaled shape, envelope surface area scales with planform area, so Q/S can be thought of as a ratio of volume to surface area, or a rendition of the time-honored cube-square law for containment vessels. In HAVs, larger is better. By generalizing the values for the relevant quantities observed in the development of the SkyCat 20, 200, and 1000 HAVs, the family of curves in Figure 2 can be plotted. From experience in helium hull construction, it can be asserted that sensible values of Q/S fall between 10 and 40 as plotted. Note that the measure of comparison is highly dependent on forward speed. If the mission of the vehicle can tolerate lower speeds, the HAV offers substantial improvement in efficiency. Larger vehicles can carry that efficiency gain to slightly higher speeds. However, if speed is the essence, at non-buoyant aircraft will always be the dominant choice. By rewriting Equation (5) utilizing , the scale effect with size is clearly seen.


The addition of buoyant lift adds another term for lift:

C 2g f L system= L + CD CD V 2 D


Lb = g Q
where Q = Displaced Envelope Volume Forming L/D from these equations yields:

(3) A subtlety to Figure 2 is the implicit change in the ratio between buoyant lift and aerodynamic lift. In

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some formulations of these equations, static heaviness performance. Since the envelope is a pressure vessel, the natural shapes are cylinders or spheres, neither conducive to high values of CL/CD. Thus the critical engineering trade in HAV design is the balance between velocity, aerodynamic shaping, and structural (mostly envelope) mass. Mass in itself can become confusing in HAVs, owing to the non-trivial weights of gases onboard. To correctly track mass using the form of equations herein, the mass of the helium and ballonet air in the envelope must be included in the gross mass of the overall vehicle. This is commonly done in airship design specifications, though it may be foreign to aircraft designers. In some analyses, it is convenient to keep the mass of the ballonet air separate, yielding the closed and open forms of the mass equations1. As with any air vehicle, allocation of mass, or weight, fixed or empty weights versus useful payload or fuel is an important design activity. The HAV class of vehicles, as compared to fixed-wing aircraft, maintains a higher payload mass fraction and lower fuel mass fraction at a given range owing to the lower power requirement and lighter structural mass. Reference 1 offers insight into airship design, which can be abstracted to HAV efforts. For the performance discussion below, the focus will be on air vehicles of similar design to Figure 1, for which a body of data exists, allowing more quantitative demonstration of the performance measures derived.


System Efficiency HAV Efficiency Carpet Plot

60 Knots

70 40.00 CL/CD 60 System L/D System L/D 50 40

5.0 4.5 4.0 3.5 3.0

35.00 30.00

Air Speed 80 Knots

25.00 30
20 20.00 10

100 Knots 120 Knots

0 40 10.00 60 80 Velocity (kts) 100



Transport Aircraft HAV f =40 m

HAV f =10 m HAV f =30 m

0.00 HAV f =20 m

Figure 2.3.HAV System Efficiency Figure System L/D Carpet Plot

(H) or heaviness percentage (H%) is used to describe the relative levels of aerodynamic lift and helium lift. The point where the helium lift equals the air vehicle mass is known as neutral buoyancy, defined as 0% heavy or zero heaviness. Adding mass to the air vehicle (most often payload) changes this condition, causing a deviation in the static heaviness. In Figure 2, the lift coefficient is constant at the maximum aerodynamic L/D, thus the aerodynamic lift, and therefore heaviness, changes with velocity. The heaviness formulation is commonly used in HAV design as it provides dynamic similarity in scale, but the equations can become complex and do not clearly demonstrate the importance of velocity to the HAV. For the HAV, velocity is a critical design driver. Counter to aircraft, where both drag and lift scale with the square of velocity, the HAV equations include buoyant terms that do not scale with velocity at all. Aerodynamic performance in the form of the highest possible CL/CD remains important, but is diminished relative to an aircraft for two important reasons. First, as shown in Figure 3, the dominant driver in efficiency is velocity. The values shown for CL/CD are typical of lifting body shapes similar to the HAV in Figure 1. CL/CD values of 3-5 for an aircraft would be irresolvably poor, but for an HAV, the total system must balance envelope weight against overall

HAV Flight Performance The dramatic variance in system efficiency with forward speed leads to a fundamental shift in

Velocity for Optimum Efficiency 110.00 100.00 90.00 80.00 70.00 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00 2 4 6 8 10
Wto/Sref (lbs/ft^2) HAV f=20m HAV f=40m Max. System L/D Speed (knots)

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HAV f=30m

Figure 4. Optimum Efficiency Speed

priority of design drivers, and in turn, flight performance that is highly sensitive to operating methodology. Of primary importance is the selection of cruise velocity, which strongly affects the range, endurance and economic effectiveness of the HAV design. The preferred velocity is tied much more closely to vehicle scale in an HAV than with fixedwing aircraft, as evidenced by the presence of the scaling term (). The preferred velocity, however, is tied to vehicle aerodynamic parameters and size as with aircraft, evidenced in the following forms. For steady, level flight at small angles, the sum of forces in the vertical plane yields: K/Cdo. In practical design of HAVs, it is very difficult to affect Cdo since the large envelope dominates it, so adjustment of induced drag, through body shaping and fin/wing shaping is the only tool available to affect preferred design speed at a given size. Figure 5 shows the variation with K/Cdo for values typical of HAV shapes like Figure 1. In practice, the CL/CD vs. alpha curve for the lifting body shape is relatively flat, allowing deviation of +/- 10-15 knots without substantial deviation in aerodynamic performance, thus flight speed can be adjusted to optimize operating economics case by case and maintain good performance. With the preferred velocity defined, range and endurance relations can be developed to describe the HAV flight performance. The range and endurance equations can be derived in a similar fashion to the standard equations. The integral forms will yield precise results and are recommended for analysis work, but some insight can be gleaned from the approximate closed forms (a). Range is given by:

W = L a + L b = 1 / 2 V 2 S CL + g Q
Solving for lift coefficient, and reducing Q/S:


CL =

1 2W 2g f 2 V S


R (mi ) =

In the horizontal plane, required thrust balances drag, so for steady flight:


p L

p L

dW W


Treq = 1 / 2 V 2 S C D 0 + K CL


R (mi) 375

1 ln SFC D system + p


By taking the derivative with respect to velocity, and equating to zero, Equation (9) can be solved for minimum thrust required velocity, yielding:
2 W 2 2 4 K W 2 g f VTR min = 4 S + f Cdo S (10)

where SFC is in lbf/HP/hr Modifications including trapped fuel can be either included in the empty weight fraction, or subtracted from the final weight term (+p) in the approximate form. Actual flight profiles may alter the efficiency point to point, so the generalized form, which assumes constant system (L/D), should be used only as an estimate. Endurance is derived in a similar fashion:

As before, substituting the non-buoyant case yields the standard aircraft result. Here, however, the scaling parameter plays a dominating role. It seems from the form that the scaling parameter and the wing loading (W/S), both affect the result. Figure 4 shows a plot of typical values for the HAV described, holding K/Cdo constant. The wing loading in the first two terms is swamped by the magnitude of the third term, yielding very little dependence on wing loading or altitude for optimal speed. Optimal speed does not depend strongly on W/S as with fixed-wing aircraft. The only design parameter available is the aerodynamic relationship

E (hr ) =



p L

1 dW system V W


By using the approximation that f2g2 dominates equation (10) for optimum cruise velocity, and that system L/D is constant, an approximate closed form would be:

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Velocity for Optimum Efficiency


Max. System L/D Speed

100.00 90.00


80.00 70.00 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00 10 12 14 16 18

flight performance of the vehicle drives the costs is required. The variety of methods of accounting for costs varies widely, but the basic elements are the same: vehicle acquisition cost, insurance, maintenance, crew, fuel and miscellaneous overhead. For the HAV in Figure 1, cost estimates have been completed by SkyCat Technologies accounting for each of these categories and their relative impact. The costs are split into two categories: Fixed Costs (FC), including vehicle acquisition and financing, insurance and permanent operating staff; and Direct Operating Costs (DOC), which includes Fuel, maintenance, flight and ground crew. Both are sensitive to yearly utilization and flight routes, but for a regular flight schedule over a long period of time, the total costs can be estimated. Of those costs, two categories are influenced strongly by the technical performance of the vehicle, acquisition cost and fuel cost. The other items are not strongly affected by technical issues, but are related to overall costs, thus can be added as a fixed overhead percentage to the fuel and acquisition; in this case 25% matches our estimates. Using this method, a formulation can be developed which shows the key technical parameters that drive the HAV costs. Using the assumptions noted, the total operating costs can be described as:

K/Cdo HAV f=10m HAV f=30m HAV f=20m HAV f=40m

Figure 5. Optimum Efficiency Speed

E (hr ) 389

Cdo 4 SFC D sys K

p L

1 1 ln g f + p

where SFC is in lbf/HP/hr, is in ft, g in ft/s^2 HAVs, due to their sensitivity to atmospheric density, will not fly at high altitudes like fixed-wing aircraft. The basic structure is simpler, and therefore lighter, with a relatively small ballonet. The ballonet size is directly related to maximum altitude. Investigations into flight profiles suggest that HAVs in the 3000-5000 ft. flight range will benefit significantly from tailwind seeking; or going up and down in altitude of altering course to gain benefit from local winds patterns. With this in mind, specific HAV analyses for range and endurance estimates need to take into account weather and seasonal phenomenology. To impact the design process directly, defining the terms that affect the true metric, economy, must be investigated. HAV Cost Drivers Critical to the success of any air vehicle is the operating economics; HAVs are no different. Clearly from the preceding analysis, the vehicles are not naturally suited to any high-speed applications, so economy, not quickness, drives the success equation. Market studies performed by a variety of companies over the past two decades have all shown the highest demand in the middle market cargo operations; faster than a ship, yet cheaper than an airplane. Detailing the full economics is well beyond the scope of this paper in both complexity and releaseability, but an analysis that highlights the key technical design drivers exposes some interesting aspects of the HAV, which are not intuitively obvious. The primary measure of economic performance in cargo transport is cost per ton-mile of cargo moved. To help focus a technical effort, some measure of how the

$ $ $ = + ton miletotal ton mile fuel ton mileacq

[1+ OH%]

The first element, fuel cost per ton-mile, can be expressed as:

fuel price Wfuel $ lb = ton mile fuel W payload R max L / D


Utilizing the fuel flow rate eliminates the direct dependence on route structure. Further, the fuel flow rate is related to required thrust and SFC; payload weight can be expressed as a fraction of gross weight.

Wpayload = p W
w fuel =


SFC Treq V p 550


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SFC in Lbf/HP/hr, V in ft/sec Combining (15) and (16) into (14) and reducing units yields: the simplified structure, in this case a non-rigid envelope, which bears the loads. The cost per pound for the SkyCat family of vehicles is estimated at $170/pound. Including cost of financing and expressing cost per year yields:

.791 fuelpr SFC gal $ T = p p ton mile fuel W

(17) From (1), T/W is related to system efficiency and for best performance the maximum system L/D is used, so the final form becomes:

FPC / yr =

1.8 ($ / lb) W ServiceLife


Useful load moved per year forms the second part of the equation and is the product of the useful payload (maximum payload times useful payload fraction) and the distance traveled (speed times average flight hours per year):

$ = ton mile fuel

.791 fuelpr SFC gal L p p D system

ULM / yr =

p W UPL % V flthrs / yr 2000 (21)

( )

(18) where the speed is assumed to be the best performance speed in Equation (10). Note that better performance means a lower value of fuel cost per ton-mile; so higher payload fraction and system efficiency yields better performance. Estimated payload fractions for HAVs are 45-50% of gross weight. Utilizing a turboprop engine in the 100-knot speed range results in a lower SFC, thus better performance, than a comparable fixed wing aircraft. Also notable is the lack of dependence on speed for this measure. Productivity, as often measured in tons per year for a given aircraft, depends on both payload capacity and speed, but its affect on the bottom line appears in the acquisition cost per ton-mile not the fuel cost per ton mile. Acquisition cost per ton-mile relates the productivity of a vehicle in payload moved to the cost of purchase and financing over its useful life.

Combining (20) and (21) into (19), and assuming a financing factor of 1.8, 5300 flight hours per year, 80% useful payload fraction and 10, the final form becomes:

$ 0.849 ($ / lb) = pV ton mileacq


$ FinancedPurchase Cost / yr = UsefulLoad Moved/ yr ton mileacq

(19) Precise estimation for a new class of aircraft is obviously challenging, but the database developed by SkyCat Technologies for three sizes of air vehicle can represent the class of HAVs for the purposes here. As with aircraft, HAVs track acquisition cost with empty weight; though at a lower cost per pound. The lower cost per pound for helium-based vehicles arises from

Best estimates for payload fraction (0.48) and empty weight fraction (0.35) inserted into equations (22), (18), and (13) yield the following plot. As expected, the fixed cost per ton-mile decreases as the aircraft speed increases; the same aircraft moves more weight per year. Increasing the useful load fraction, increasing the flight hours per year, extending the service life, or reducing the cost of financing can drive out additional cost. Counter to this effect, the direct operating cost increases with speed, largely due to the decrease in system efficiency. Obviously, this is highly sensitive to the volatile fuel price, but the trend remains. The combined total cost, therefore, follows the overall trend of sensitivity to velocity, with a pronounced knee in the curve at some characteristic speed. Different size vehicles, and different assumptions, will yield different levels of cost and velocities where the knee occurs. The knee occurs near the max CL/CD velocity. Even though the CL/CD curve is relatively flat for lifting bodies, the overall costs are very sensitive to this point. As noted before, design adjustments to body shaping and mass distribution will have a material effect on the resulting economic performance, the true bottom line for a cargo system.

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HAV Cost Drivers

$0.30 747-400 ~$.50/ATM $0.25 $/Ava ila ble Ton-Mile $0.20 $0.15 $0.10 $0.05 $0.00
80 90 100 110 120 Speed (knots) 130 140




(Incl. 25% OH)

Figure 6. HAV Cost Drivers

Conclusions Hybrid Air Vehicles combine the natural physics of buoyant gas lift and aerodynamic lift to provide a highly efficient air vehicle for certain uses. Owing to the large gas containment hull required, HAVs are relegated to a relatively low speed range, less than 140 knots, with optimal productivity between 90-110 knots. HAV efficiency improves dramatically with scale; larger vehicles are more efficient. Performance measures appropriate for HAVs depart from standard airplane equations; one version of the top-level formulae has been developed here. Design decisions for HAVs differ from fixed-wing airplanes owing to the strong dependence on flight velocity. Economic indicators reveal 60% reduction in cost over fixed-wing aircraft in total cost per ton-mile. The low speed of the HAV limits the transport to predominately cargo service, though limited short-range passenger markets are possible. The Hybrid Air Vehicle shows promise as a viable solution to the transportation middle market: faster than a ship, cheaper than an airplane. References 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Khoury, G.A., et al, Airship Technology, Cambridge University Press, 1999 Anderson, J.D., Introduction to Flight, McGraw-Hill, 1989 Hoerner, S.F., Fluid Dynamic Drag, New Jersey, Published by Author Conklin & DeDecker, Aircraft Operating Costs, Advisory Circular Brewer, W.N. The Productivity of Airships In Long Range Transportation, AIAA 79-1596 Burgess, C.P. Airship Design, The Ronald Press Company

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