The validity of using a low-computational-cost model for the aerodynamic characterization of Airborne Wind Energy Systems was studied by benchmarking a three-dimensional Unsteady Panel Method (UnPaM) with experimental data from a flight test campaign of a two-line Rigid-Framed Delta kite. The latter, and a subsequent analysis of the experimental data, provided the evolution of the tether tensions, the full kinematic state of the kite (aerodynamic velocity and angular velocity vectors, among others), and its aerodynamic coefficients. The history of the kinematic state was used as input for UnPaM that provided a set of theoretical aerodynamic coefficients. Disparate conclusions were found when comparing the experimental and theoretical aerodynamic coefficients. For a wide range of angles of attack and sideslip angles, the agreement in the lift and lateral force coefficients was good and moderate, respectively, considering UnPaM is a potential flow tool. As expected, UnPaM predicts a much lower drag because it ignores viscous effects. The comparison of the aerodynamic torque coefficients is more delicate due to uncertainties on the experimental data. Besides fully non-stationary simulations, the lift coefficient was also studied with UnPaM by assuming quasi-steady and steady conditions. It was found that for a typical figure-of-eight trajectory there are no significant differences between unsteady and quasi-steady approaches allowing for fast simulations.
airborne wind energy system; vortex lattice method; aerodynamic coefficients; estimation before modeling