Airborne wind energy CFD analysis (Mech 498/499)


Airborne wind energy systems are a novel technology with great prospects to generate clean, renewable energy by making use of faster wind speeds and greater power densities at high altitudes. Since conventional wind turbines are limited to low altitude winds, several new designs were developed. Such systems generally consist of a ground station and a tethered aircraft. Energy will either be produced on land or onboard of the aircraft. Both designs come with their own benefits and challenges.

Research Goals:

In collaboration with a startup company from Vancouver you will apply modern CFD tools to investigate the properties of provided airfoils. The goal of this investigation is to determine two-dimensional airfoil parameters such as the glide ratio, pitching moment and pressure distribution as a function of angle of attack. Depending on your progress you can expand your analysis to a whole 3D kite. Excellent work can be presented at a conference (such as Airborne Wind Energy Conference AWEC) or published in a paper.


The general process consists of three steps: pre-processing, solving and post-processing. First the fluid domain will be discretized and boundary conditions defined. After the numerical simulation converges the results have to be represented in an appropriate form such as a flow visualization or a line diagram.

Learning outcome

You will learn how real flow around a complex geometry is numerically calculated and understand the assumptions and approximations that are necessary to compute such flows. This will involve researching and understanding the quality requirements of numerical meshes, the theory behind turbulence modeling as well as analytical estimation of results.


You should have sound knowledge of fluid mechanics and be motivated to learn more about aerodynamics, computational fluid mechanics and numerical simulations. You will be supervised by Dr. Curran Crawford and Markus Sommerfeld who will guide you and support you.