Development of an ICME-based airframe digital twin model of an all-composite air vehicle Conference Paper uri icon


  • In this work, key elements in the development of the Airframe Digital Twin concept for composite air vehicles are presented within the framework of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME). The paradigm for implementing ICME in the design and development of composite air vehicle structures is fundamentally distinct from that for metallic structures. Similarly, critical features of a robust Digital Twin model of an all-composite aircraft related to durability, damage tolerance, structural life prediction, establishment of inspection intervals, repairs, and repair assessments are profoundly different than those required for traditional metallic aircraft. This research aims to identify fundamental concepts necessary to develop and validate high-fidelity and computationally-efficient Digital Twin models for use in the damage tolerance assessment of lightweight composite aerospace structures, where the "Owl" all-composite ultra-light unmanned air vehicle (UAV) is used as a candidate proof-of-concept platform. The Owl was originally developed as part of the U.S. Army Space Missile Defense Command High Performance Materials/Processes (HIPERMAP) Program. The vehicle structural design, power plant, and sensor packages were based on next generation sailplane technologies. The vehicle has a 36 ft. wingspan and employs predominately carbon-epoxy construction throughout the wing and fuselage. The Owl may be flown either as a pilot-controlled manned vehicle or as an autonomous UAV. As part of the HIPERMAP Program, two fully functional Owl UAVs were developed, as well as several full-scale structural test articles used in static, dynamic, and ultimate load testing of the wing and fuselage assemblies. The flight vehicles were subjected to a series of instrumented flight tests to establish UAV sensor platform capabilities and initial mission profiles. In addition, highly refined and structurally complete ABAQUS finite element (FE) models of the wing, fuselage, and assembled air vehicle were developed to predict the static and dynamic vehicle response. The FE models account for the composite material stack-up sequence, sandwich construction, ply drop offs, and adhesive bonds throughout the entire air vehicle. The existing Owl FE and outer mold line geometry models will be used to probe essential features associated with enhanced structural, progressive failure, computational fluid dynamics, and loads models necessary to establish an Airframe Digital Twin model.

author list (cited authors)

  • Mcwilliams, K., Lacy, T. E., Roy, S., & Jha, R.

publication date

  • December 2013