What is a Wing Tip Vortex?

In this video, we will be discussing wingtip vortices. I will explain how wings on planes & drones generate vortices. What is causing them? How do they impact flight times? And how can you reduce them using winglets? Introduction Have you ever seen those upward sharky fins at the tips of an airplane wing? They are called wingtips and they are there to increase the performance of the wing by reducing the vortices. And it doesn't apply just to airplanes, but also to fixed-wing drones, wind turbine propeller blades and others. What is a vortex Simply put, a vortex occurs when the air rotates around a line in the air, like a tornado for example. But how are they created? To keep an airplane or a drone in the air, it needs to generate lift. This can only be done if the total pressure at the bottom of the airplane is bigger than the total pressure at the top of the airplane, generating a net force upwards. But as nature is always looking for balance, the air at the high-pressure side, at the bottom, wants to skip over to the low-pressure side at the top. Luckily there is a wing in between which then captures this force and generates lift. But at the tips of the wing, the air can bend around the tip with a 180° turn to skip from the high-pressure side at the bottom to the low-pressure at the top. So as this airplane travels through the air, it generates a continues swirl or vortex in the air. These wingtip vortices create a loss in lifting properties of the wing as part of the crucial pressure difference between bottom and top, is lost. Preventing vortices Eliminating wingtip vortices completely is quite difficult, but you can reduce them by adding a little wall at the end of the wing (a winglet). This will prevent the air from crossing over from the bottom side to the top side. So how big is this effect? How much can you gain by adding them? We've done a project specifically on drone winglets. It was a fixed-wing drone and it already had wing tips. By analyzing and improving them, we improved the lift over drag ratio by up to 30%. Which is quite massive for a fixed-wing drone. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Wouter Remmerie Wouter is the Founder of AirShaper, an online, virtual wind tunnel. With this tool and these videos, we want to make aerodynamics accessible to everyone! Interested in more content like this on the field of aerodynamics? Make sure to click that subscribe button, we post new videos every week! Looking for a way to test your Aerodynamics projects without all the hassle and the huge costs coming with it? Check out https://www.AirShaper.com and see how easy it can be!

Supported by

  • Solar Impulse
  • iMec
  • Voxdale

Code contributions by

  • KU Leuven
  • Inholland
  • Linkoping University