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'Flying car' design is optimised in Ansys

02 September 2010

The world's first commercial 'flying car' will go the distance on both highways and runways next year when it rolls off the production line thanks, in part, to design optimisation from Ansys. Massachusetts-based Terrafugia used the engineering simulation software to design and verify its new production prototype of the Transition aircraft, which can also be driven on the highway.

Whole-vehicle airflow tests were conducted to assess the effects of design changes on overall performance, the designers working in parallel across the various Transition components. The simulations were used to maximise wing lift when airborne and to minimise the effects of crosswinds when driven along a road. Terrafugia engineer, Gregor Cadman takes up the story:

"The Transition's test flights identified some important engineering issues that Ansys fluid dynamics software helped us to address in the production prototype. Our latest design improves both the in-air and on-road performance, as well as ensuring that the vehicle lends itself to full-scale manufacturing. Without the ability to work in a virtual environment, we would have had to construct complicated physical models, modify or rebuild them, and conduct hours of real-world testing, slowing down the process and adding significantly to development costs."

The Transition is the world's first vehicle to combine a lightweight, aerodynamic aircraft with the stability needed for long-distance driving on the highway. The vehicle can cruise up to 490 miles at over 105 miles per hour, can drive at highway speeds on the road, and is capable of transforming from plane to car in less than 30 seconds. The sophisticated design features foldable wings that span more than 26 feet, a rear-wheel-drive system for the road and a propeller for flight. A proof-of-concept vehicle completed a successful 60-second test flight in March 2009, and the company expects to begin commercial production of the vehicle in 2011.

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