NASA has used computer models to simulate airflow for decades. It lets them test to see how aircraft will react to drag, friction and countless other forces. All important factors when it comes to designing the next generation of vehicles. At NASA’S Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, the technique was recently used to check out the airflow around quadcopters. Specifically, the DJI Phantom 3.
Unlike NASA’s typical rocket powered aircraft, quadcopters rely on four spinning motors with propellers to generate thrust. This thrust needs to generate enough lift to raise both the quadcopter and its payload (perhaps a gimbal and camera) off the ground. The simulations show just how complex the air motions are from the propellers, due to interactions with the X-shaped frame during flight.