So I'm working at a project of a UAV with the follow characteristics:

  1. Rectangular planform
  2. Conventional tail
  3. The fuselage is just a metal/aluminum rod

So we need to improve its aerodynamic behavior/perfomance. I thought about: Winglets, big AR, a tapered planform or an elliptical one for reduced induced drag, maybe flaps/slats. I cant think anything about the tail actually.

The UAV is similar to the one in the picture. (The tail and wings)

enter image description here

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ What are the objectives of the UAV? Factors that "improve" performance depend on what kind of performance you're looking for. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @fooot Well, we can say that the UAV is going to be constructed for competitions that need cargo to be moved around for some time, we dont need high power as it will fly at low speeds like 50-60km/h. We want it to be stable enough for long flights. The purpose of the UAV is not clear yet. The question is more generic about what would someone suggest. I know that you also need some data and calculations to be done, but we are talking about the very first phase of the design. $\endgroup$
    – ChrisP
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 18:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Dave, Bianfable, bogl, fooot: I was just in the middle of writing an answer. May I politely disagree with your judgement? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 20:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have nominated this to be reopened. The comments are valid, but don't block others from answering. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 20:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a really broad question. you may define what metrics you what to improve (improving L/D ratio --which help travel farther e.g. minimizing energy used to travel a given distance-- may be counterproductive if you want to minimize the best climb speed --which can help stay aloft while minimizing speed and such hourly consumption--) and put this in the question description, not in comments only. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


You want to move a heavy payload at low speeds. This means that induced drag will dominate the aircraft. If we assume a quadratic polar, the least amount of energy for staying airborne is needed when induced drag is three times higher than friction drag. Assuming a quadratic polar, the optimum lift coefficient at that point is $$c_L=\sqrt{3\cdot c_{D0}\cdot\pi\cdot AR\cdot\epsilon}$$ Obviously, you want a small zero-lift drag, but when you combine this with the high aspect ratio for a very efficient configuration, your lift coefficient will also become very high. You need to be careful to pick the right airfoil, and now Reynolds number effects demand to be observed. Once I know the overall size of your UAV, I can become more specific.

Just an example: If the zero lift drag coefficient is 0.02 and the aspect ratio is 12, the ideal lift coefficient is already 1.5. This is beyond most airfoils at Reynolds numbers below 1,000,000 and indicates a too high aspect ratio. Better add some chord in that case.

Also, some design decisions will look counterintuitive at first. I would strongly encourage you to add wing struts, like in a Cessna 172 or the Dedalus human powered aircraft. They help to save wing weight and thus reduce induced drag.

Don't overdo it with an elliptic planform! This will produce too small a chord on the outer wing and give the design undesirable stall characteristics. Better keep some chord and twist the wing so you will achieve the desired elliptical distribution at the design angle of attack. Better yet, save some wing weight by moving to a more triangular lift distribution – however, for small aircraft the optimum looks still quite elliptic.

The model pictured in your question has a lot of dimples on the fuselage - make sure yours will have a smooth surface.

Also look into improving propulsive efficiency. Use low RPM on a large propeller, if possible. You didn't mention your means of propulsion, so again it is hard to be more specific. Judging from the model, you will use electric propulsion. Use a brushless external rotor with a high pole count (low RPM per Volt).

So please provide more details and then you will receive a better answer.


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