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Do tip vortices actually make drag? I know that they (probably) reduce the L/D ratio by reducing the pressure differential between the top and bottom (which would effectively make the wingtip not create much lift, only drag).

Like the tip vortex will equalize the pressure on the surfaces of the wing, decreasing lift, and just leaving that part of the wing as dead weight/drag.

But the tip vortex isn't really the thing equalizing the pressure. The circulation around the wing is what is doing that. The tip vortex is just a result of that. (correct me if that is wrong). That would mean the situation mentioned in the first paragraph would not technically be due to tip vortices, but due to the circulation around the wing, which would have a byproduct of tip vortices.

(I’ve also seen that they ‘tilt’ the lift vector backwards because of induced downwash, which could be a source of drag due to tip vortices)


I understand that tip vortices existing means there is some sort of drag, but I'm curious if the tip vortices are making the drag or if they're just a result of a source of drag, if that makes sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are thousands (literally) of answers about tip vortices, tilted lift and induced drag, maybe you can come with a more focused or different question? $\endgroup$
    – sophit
    May 13 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @sophit I looked through some of the linked answers and (from what I can tell) they all just assume tip vortices create drag without explaining it. I'm probably wrong, as there probably is an answer explaining this but I can't personally find it. (I'm actually certain there is an answer for this, but again I can't seem to find it) But I can try to make it more focused by editing it. Will do that. $\endgroup$
    – Wyatt
    May 13 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @sophit I made an edit to the question. I'm not sure if that increased or decreased the quality of the question, I'll let the community be the judge of that. I can always roll back the edit and try again. $\endgroup$
    – Wyatt
    May 13 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? $\endgroup$
    – sophit
    May 13 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ That answer does give some interesting points. But after thinking about it for a while, I've come to a conclusion/theory : The tip vortex does make drag for multiple reasons. (I also think I've overthought this question) One reason as mentioned in my question, the induced downwash. Another reason and the main one I would say is from the circulation around the wingtip changing the pressure distribution over the upper and lower surfaces causing drag. There is probably more, but all of these things add up and make it so tip vortices cause drag. I originally was thinking there was some big $\endgroup$
    – Wyatt
    May 13 at 21:05

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