Tony Bishop reports on The Royal Aeronautical Society’s International Light Aircraft Design Competition, which provided stimulating simulations for on-screen air racing.
The 2019 RAeS competition was to design an electric air-racer, inspired by Air Race E’s new competition starting up in 2020. With a single pilot and short duration, this is an excellent proving ground for new electric power train technologies.
According to the RAES, “The design rules were based on Air Race E, but widened to encourage a broader range of configurations. Air Race E rules include a minimum empty weight of 227 kg, a maximum motor power of 150 kW, fixed pitch propellers, a minimum wing area of 6.132 square meters and a fixed main undercarriage. Air Race E also demands that all motors have the same thrust line. This limitation was removed from the RAeS competition to encourage wider innovation.”
According to Flyer magazine, racers had to fly around a five-kilometer (3.1 miles) course, staying within high and low limits and not cutting any horizontal boundaries. “The results were announced at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s annual Light Aircraft Design Conference on Electrifying General Aviation on 18 November. Awards were presented to the top three by Steve Slater, CEO of the Light Aircraft Association.”
An international lineup of 15 contestants pushed those rules, already more flexible than those for Air Race E, to their absolute limits. They came up with configurations featuring single to four motors, propelling monoplanes, biplanes and triplanes (or three-wing configurations).
Winner Iontrepid showed a maximum speed of 330 knots (380 mph). It is able to take high-G turns without losing speed, despite its high-aspect ratio flying wing configuration – more something one would seen on a sailplane. Its pusher motor and retractable nosewheel, designed by Cameron Garner from x-aerodynamics of Timaru in New Zealand, minimizes drag “with the short fuselage, and the rear propeller ingests the fuselage boundary layer. Wing sections were tailored to increase laminar flow. X-aerodynamics develop flight-realistic aircraft models for the x-plane simulator.”
Showing the firm’s ability to provide realistic flight simulation, they gift users with two freeware samples, one for the Aerobask-Robin-DR401 shown below, and one for the Aerobask Lancair Legacy FG XP11.
Garner won the contest’s first prize of an aerodynamic analysis (CFD) of their configuration, provided by Airshaper in Belgium. The winners think this will give a rigorous comparison of the design and a high-resolution analysis of the anticipate real-world performance.
Software such as that from Airshaper can predict performance from designs that otherwise might be too risky for flight tests without in-depth analysis of their characteristics – such as the Peugeot designer’s unique approach shown above.
This use of CFD and on-screen performance testing will enable designers to “wring out” designs in a safe setting and one can foresee large scale “air racing” on screen in venues like those in Madison Square Garden that attract huge crowds of cyber-gaming fans.
Second- place Sparrowhawk R-1 features a triple wing configuration with twin, wing mounted motors and a V-tail. It’s mainly of metal construction designed for easy home-building.
Third place AFormX fielded the eponymous AFormX, featuring three motors much like a single seat Eviation Alice. AFormX contracts flight testing for Pipistrel, and builds virtual reality flight simulators.
We hope some of these designs will be developed into the Air Race E aircraft of the future.