A Human-Powered-Aircraft Propeller Design

Open Access
Zhang, Xiaomo
Area of Honors:
Aerospace Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Mark David Maughmer, Thesis Supervisor
  • George A Lesieutre, Honors Advisor
  • Dennis K Mclaughlin, Faculty Reader
  • Aerospace
  • Sailplane
  • Human-Powered Aircraft
  • Propulsion
  • Aerodynamics
Improving the efficiency of the propeller will make a significant impact on aircraft performance. It is a critical part of any human-powered aircraft (HPA) project to design a high efficiency propeller. The more efficient a propeller is, the more energy the pilot can save for staying longer and higher in the air. The Royal Aeronautical Society previously offers a prize for a competition called the Kremer Prize for the first team to fly a specific mission using a human-powered aircraft. The Penn State Sailplane Team has designed and fabricated an aircraft, named Zephyrus, for this mission. The previous propeller design has yet to be tested for aerodynamic efficiency and structural integrity. It was directly taken from a previous HPA propeller design developed for this project, but intended only for temporary use. Because different flight requirements and design details have a huge influence on propeller efficiency, it is necessary to design a new propeller that has better efficiency to power Zephyrus. This thesis includes two major sections. The first section is the analysis of previous propeller design. The results show some problems of the previous propeller. One problem is the thrust that previous propeller design provides, when operating at its designed rpm, does not overcome the drag of the aircraft at cruise condition. The second section deals with the designs of two new propellers. The two new propellers can operate at higher efficiency at a given velocity of the aircraft and still generate enough thrust to complete the Kremer Prize mission.