For commercial aircraft, concerns over carbon emissions and the high cost of fuel help drive the quest for improved efficiency. Noise impact on densely populated areas provides another environmental concern. Minimizing drag is clearly important for efficient high speed cruise, but high lift is essential for safe low-speed takeoff and landing. CFD plays a major role in aircraft aerodynamics, where the requirements continue to push the capabilities of CFD technology.
Modern aircraft are stuffed with electronics systems, with uses ranging from control surface actuation to providing inflight entertainment systems. CFD has a role to play in designing cooling strategies for many of these systems, some of which are safety critical, with fuel being actively considered as a cooling fluid for the electronics. Long service lifetimes require all aspects of the design to be highly durable, from the airframe to the electronics, which impacts weight, requiring more lift, which results in more drag and consequently requires more thrust. Turbomachinery design has also pushed the development of CFD, which plays a critical role in engine and nacelle design.
In-cabin environmental systems is yet another area where CFD finds application, where there are concerns about cabin air pollution. Non-commercial aircraft share many of the same design challenges, and more, such as rotor modelling for rotorcraft, and more recently the design of UAVs, their associated equipment and payloads have all become topical.
Aircraft design clearly involves compromise, yet safety is paramount. High quality, reliable results from the CFD analysis are essential to many aspects of design in the industry that was the earliest adopter of CFD technology.