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Argonne developing new dynamic system simulation tool for future aircraft, including electric and hybrid: Aeronomie

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory are developing a new dynamic aircraft simulation tool—named Aeronomie—that will allow engineers to simulate entire flights and test how all kinds of aircraft perform—including electric and hybrid airplanes, vehicles for urban air mobility, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

With Aeronomie, users can automatically build virtual aircraft using models—which capture the flying environment, the aircraft’s motion and aerodynamics and how it is powered and flown. The program is fully customizable, allowing users to add models from an existing library or their own files.


Detailed view of a powerplant model containing a series-hybrid powertrain from Autonomie. Prabhakar et al. 2020

According to Dominik Karbowski, a technical manager in the Vehicle and Mobility Simulation Group in the Energy Systems division who is leading the development of Aeronomie with Nirmit Prabhakar, an aerospace engineer at ANL, Argonne’s success with a similar platform for road vehicles—Autonomie—strengthens the concept and will enable a fast deployment.

We are applying our expertise in vehicle systems simulation from Autonomie to the aviation world. We are able to adapt much of what runs the road vehicle simulations for vehicles to aircraft. We can apply the same general methodology.

—Dominik Karbowski

Autonomie has been developed at Argonne over the past 20 years with support from the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO). Autonomie is currently licensed by more than 275 organizations worldwide for use in developing more energy-efficient vehicles and supporting research into electric and hybrid cars and trucks.

Prabhakar, whose position as an aerospace engineer is relatively unique at Argonne, was responsible for taking the underlying principles from Autonomie and creating a model that worked for aircraft. While there were many valuable synergies, it was far from simple.

There are massive differences between a car and an aircraft. You have to consider the vertical dimension, which creates extra degrees of freedom. Then there is the greater variety of designs when it comes to aircrafts, from quadcopters to jet-powered airlines.

—Nirmit Prabhakar

Prabhakar said Aeronomie will help engineers understand how changes will affect aircraft, especially the propulsion system. Beyond that, Aeronomie could also help characterize the energy consumption of an array of new aircraft concepts, which in turn could be used for higher-level analysis. For example, what effect would a fleet of air taxis operating from a downtown area to the airport have on current traffic? How many cars would be taken out of the system? What kind of energy and mobility impacts would the air taxis have?

Aeronomie will be deployed later this year, complete with a graphical user interface that will allow third-party users to begin experimenting.




Lots of interest in VTOLs, it would be nice to see if they can fly in simulation.

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