Monday, October 17, 2016

Now Available: A Free 3-D Aircraft Design Software Application

          By Brian Orlotti

A Utah State University (USU) professor has made a free aerodynamics simulation tool that could revolutionize the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry.

USU aerospace engineering faculty member Doug Hunsaker has created a free aircraft design software tool. Photo c/o USU.

The tool, called MachUp (a likely wordplay on the popular Trimble SketchUp software), is a web-based tool (also available on smartphones and tablets) that allows individuals to design an aircraft, then calculates aerodynamic information (i.e. lift, drag, stability) for their design. MachUp renders 3D models in a user’s web browser, smartphone or tablet while performing the complex aerodynamic calculations on a dedicated server.

As outlined in the October 6th, 2016, Tech Xplore post "Aerospace engineer creates free 3-D aircraft design software," MachUp’s creator, Doug Hunsaker, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UTU (and a former Scaled Composites engineer), originally developed it with the goal of putting a useful design tool into the hands of engineers at UAV startups.

Now, Hunsaker wants anyone interested in drone design to be able to harness it.

As UAVs play an increasing economic role in the coming years, MachUp could prove a boon to small UAV makers. Most software capable of simulating aerodynamics is used only in large aerospace firms and commands steep licensing fees. As applications expand, UAVs will be utilized in an increasing variety of tasks. Each of these tasks will require a specialized design. MachUp provides a professional-level tool that enables such specialization---for free.

MachUp’s users include Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A parallel can be drawn between MachUp and free software tools like Krita (digital painting), Ardour (digital audio) and OpenShot (digital video). Like these tools, MachUp provides professional-level capabilites to the general public and help to level the playing field between large and small corporations and individuals.

With the sea changes now taking place in both the space and aerospace industries, the more talent that can be brought to bear, the better.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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