Development of an Concept Firefighting Aircraft; Gridlock of Perspectives: The Competition for the Future of Electric Vehicles

Lam, Quang, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Quinlan, Jesse, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

In a collaborative capstone project, the capstone team developed a conceptual design of a firefighting aircraft. My capstone advisor is Jesse Quinlan of the MAE department, and my concept design team consists of Jemma Johnson, Jaylon Williams, Lama Khraibani, Logan Honts, Nick Martin, Ryan Keough, and Yicong Fu.
The technical research problem is to find and derive a concept design airplane to better fight wildfires. Wildfires have worsened in areas like California due to climate change. Current effective firefighting aircraft (air tankers) include older military and commercial aircraft. This includes the California Fire Department’s workhorse Grumman S-2T, a plane that was introduced in 1954, and the DC-10, a commercial airplane introduced in 1970. The need for a more technologically advanced air tanker is essential in managing these worsening wildfires across the world.
The goals and constraints are established by the AIAA Request for Proposal (RFP) Design Competition. The RFP expects a hypothetical solution along with hypothesis testing and cost analysis within a report. Reports sent for evaluation are reviewed by experts in the field who will then provide constructive responses. Goals and objectives for the design include 8000 gallons of fire retardant capacity, a drop speed of less than or equal to 125 knots, and more. Other objectives pertain to the dash speed, design ferry range, and certifications like flight during icing conditions and a design of the systems and avionics architecture for autonomous operations.
There was a formulaic approach to the design of the firefighting aircraft. Initial background research was done for current air tankers which led to concept ideation among the group. This concept ideation process involved each group member producing a concept design and picking the top 3. With 3 concept designs, the group also conducted State-of-the-Art research into current technologies that are most applicable to the current designs. Weight, thrust, and mission profile estimates were also done to evaluate the ability of the concept designs to complete expected objectives. Software like AutoCAD and OpenVSP were utilized in these concept ideations for structure and design. Matlab was used to run predictive algorithms on estimated weights; these predicted values included Take Off Gross Weight (TOGW), the weight the aircraft is expected to take off with. The finalization of designs is summarized in the design report and was submitted to the AIAA RFP competition.
The second technical report explains and analyzes the strategies of scrums and the Agile mindset when used during my software development internship. The technical report also expands on the importance of these techniques to produce satisfactory code while allowing newer team members like interns to be caught up to speed quickly and to allow them to help contribute to a project effectively.
The sociotechnical paper argues the need for EVs but also acknowledges the shortcomings they provide as the market increases. The paper researches trends and numbers that are directly correlated with policies set in place by both state and national governments and also paints the picture of the influence exerted over parties involved. Car manufacturers like Toyota, Tesla, and Volkswagen are competing among themselves as an EV future develops all while being spurred on by government incentives for both the public and private companies. Meanwhile, oil companies are also discussed, and their attempt to minimize this industry change as renewable resources are also becoming sought after as opposed to oil and coal.
A major interaction discussed includes lobbying between car manufacturers and the government. In addition, oil companies have also lobbied against the expansion of charging networks across the United States. The U.S.’s infrastructure bill focuses primarily on expanding grids to harbor renewable energy sources while providing an expansive network of charging ports for new EVs. Further incentivizing the public to consider EVs as their next choice.
Resorting to EVs is not going to solely be the contributor to fewer greenhouse gas emissions globally. The world is at risk of irreversible damage due to climate change and global warming. Despite this reality, EVs can further the focus on greener solutions to our current problems. EV battery research can help grids integrate batteries to hold more charge efficiently from renewable resources as opposed to burning coal, while EV development can entirely rewrite the industry’s expectations from a car. The paper explores what car manufacturers are doing to handle this upcoming landscape of electrified transportation and the result of when lobbying, policy-making, and the demand for EVs intersect and interact with one another.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Aerospace, Firefighting, EVs, Climate Change, Web Development

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering

Technical Advisor: Jesse Quinlan, Ph.D.

STS Advisor: Joshua Earle, Ph.D.; Peter Norton, Ph.D.

Technical Team Members: Yicong Fu, Logan Honts, Ryan Keough, Lama Khraibani, Quang Lam, Nicholas Martin, Jaylon Williams

Issued Date: