CFD in AIAA’s Year in Review

aero-amer-yir-2017-coverCFD and related technology appears throughout the Aerospace America 2017 Year in Review issue. Here are the highlights I found in the order they appear in the magazine. Plus I’ve included a few non-CFD items that caught my eye.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that the annual year in review issue of AIAA’s Aerospace America is the only issue I don’t toss in the recycling bin. Every issue since 1980 (when I first joined the professional society as a student) is shelved in my home office.

Why? Other than my well-documented inability to throw things away, these issues provide concise, annual snapshots of the aerospace industry. Each technical committee (TC) within the society writes an article summarizing the year’s milestones in their respective area of expertise.

Multidisciplinary Design Optimization TC

  • NASA’s OpenMDAO, a Python-based, open-source framework for MDO, continues to be broadly used throughout industry (e.g. NASA’s X-57).
  • FUNtoFEM couples NASA’s FUN3D CFD code with structural analysis for aeroelastic computations. This work was done at Georgia Tech.
  • uCRM is an open model from the University of Michigan and NASA based on NASA’s Common Research Model (typical transport aircraft) for aerostructural studies.
  • Obligatory [to me] CFD Vision 2030 tie-in: “Beyond the typical codification of the inputs and outputs of a particular physical simulation, standards for MDAO may need to include sensitivities, uncertainties, and overall descriptions of the parameterization (possibly including the geometry itself) and the optimization problem. To enable tight coupling of diverse disciplines and codes, the data standards need to extend to include memory resident information and coding structures.

Non-Deterministic Approaches TC

  • A DARPA program sponsored development of several frameworks for uncertainty quantification (UQ) one of which, SEQUOIA, was able to shape engine nozzles in a way that increased thrust without adding weight.
  • Another UQ framework from the same program, QUANTUM, solved an optimization problem for a turbulent jet with 1 million parameters.
  • CFD Vision 2030 tie-in: “In order to facilitate both optimization and UQ at the system level, Vision 2030 CFD must be able to provide sensitivities of multiple derived quantities of interest with respect to large numbers of independent parameters at reasonable computational cost.”
  • [Observation: How long before folks run out of words containing “Q” for use with cool acronyms for UQ tools? There’s a reason Q is worth 10 points in Scrabble.]

Systems Engineering TC

  • As CFDers, we’re likely familiar with the concept of model-based engineering but not perhaps from the perspective of systems engineering. The component of MBE that may impact us the most is the concept of a digital twin, a digital model of a physical system, on which analysis such as CFD can be performed as the physical system changes over time and the digital twin is updated accordingly.

Aeroacoustics TC

  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University performed computational simulations of a jet noise reduction concept called fluidic inserts.
  • CRAFT Tech, U. of Mississippi, and U. of Texas Austin began work on another jet noise reduction technique called contoured inserts to be used to retrofit aircraft.

Applied Aerodynamics TC

  • Helios, the rotorcraft CFD code from CREATE, was used for high-fidelity simulations of interactional aerodynamics.
  • Speaking of CREATE…
    • Kestrel 8.0 now supports multi-species flow for use with hypersonic flows.
    • Helios 8.0 includes enhanced turbulence and transition models.
    • Genesis is [to me] a new tool that combines design and CFD for use by students.

Atmospheric and Space Environments TC

  • Wind tunnel testing of a NASA CRM-based wing with artificial ice shapes is expected to provide data for use in evaluating simulation tools.

Fluid Dynamics TC

  • The NASA Juncture Flow experiment is collecting validation-quality data for trailing edge separation near the wing-body juncture. This data will help improve CFD modeling techniques for this type of flow. (See also this technical paper.)
  • A joint experimental and computational study of high-speed, turbulent, separated flows was performed to provide inputs for LES simulations.

Meshing, Visualization, and Computational Environments TC

  • The 1st AIAA Geometry and Mesh Generation Workshop included one of the first higher-order finite-element full aircraft simulations and the latest in mesh adaptation. This workshop, the first of a planned series, addresses geometry and meshing concerns laid out in NASA’s CFD Vision 2030 Study. (More at
  • Intelligent Light completed funded work on new methods for visualizing high order CFD results and curved meshes.
  • Pointwise completed funded work on integrating overset grid assembly with mesh generation software.
  • Boeing and INRIA demonstrated impactful mesh adaptation results at two CFD workshops.
  • One of the quickest growing computational frameworks for CFD is Kestrel which was updated significantly during the year.

Simulation results performed on a moving, adapted, anisotropic mesh using INRIA’s techniques. Image from Aerospace America. See link above.


Thermophysics TC

  • Computational chemistry results were used to better model reaction rates for hypersonic flows as simulated by CFD.
  • [Not CFD but I had to read this sentence three times to make sure I understood what it was saying. I quote it verbatim but the emphasis is mine.] Researchers in Japan studied synthetic meteorites in an arc heated wind tunnel in preparation for a planned artificial meteor shower at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Flight Testing TC

  • NASA flight tests of airframe noise reduction techniques have produced a database to help validate computational aeroacoustic simulation methods.

Hypersonic Technologies and Aerospace Planes TC

  • While nothing was explicitly said about CFD, it’s my opinion that hypersonics will be a growth area for CFD simulations in aerospace in the coming years.

Lighter-Than-Air Systems TC

  • In which we read that Walmart filed a patent for a floating warehouse from which drones would deliver packages.

High-Speed Air-Breathing Propulsion TC

  • Data for CFD validation of scramjet fuel injectors was gathered in tests at NASA’s arc-heated scramjet facility.



As this list hopefully has demonstrated, CFD and related technologies have a broad impact throughout aerospace technologies. Let me know if I missed a citation.

And one last plug for the magazine: reading this entire issue makes clear the breadth of fascinating work being doing within this industry.

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