A NETWORK LEVEL FEASIBILITY FRAMEWORK FOR BEAM-POWERED AIRCRAFT
Beam-powered aircraft are a promising solution to reducing the air transportation system's operating costs and emissions due to their reliance on typically more efficient ground-based electricity sources.
However, modeling these aircraft is a non-trivial task due to their multi-disciplinary nature and the required interconnectedness between the aircraft, air transportation network, and power-beaming models.
This thesis establishes a methodology for holistically modeling beam-powered aircraft as a freight transportation asset in the context of their operating environment.
This methodology accounts for elements of aircraft conceptual design, the limits of power-beaming technology, and non-idealities associated with the air transportation network.
As a product of this methodology, this thesis also approximates beam-powered aircraft's economic and environmental feasibility based on current and future technological capabilities.
This work concludes that with an optimistic enough "engine absent" mass fraction and with sufficiently advanced technologies -- particularly with higher power density rectennas -- beam-powered aircraft are both economically and environmentally feasible, having a lower operating cost and emitting less carbon dioxide per ton-mile compared to current-day and near-future freight transportation aircraft.
More specifically, this work concludes that when using a simplified and more optimistic engine absent mass fraction model, power train specific power only needs to improve by a factor of 1.2-3.7 and rectenna power density only needs to improve by a factor of 20-30 compared to the baseline technologies considered in this work in order for beam-powered aircraft to be a feasible alternative to jet fuel powered aircraft in a freight transportation role.
However, with a more pessimistic albeit more realistic engine absent mass fraction model, this work concludes that beam-powered aircraft are not feasible in a freight transportation role with the technology levels considered in this work.
- Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Aeronautics and Astronautics
- West Lafayette