Year of Publication


Document Type





Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Suzanne Weaver Smith


Use of an inflatable/rigidizable wing is explored for Mars airplane designs. The BIG BLUE (Baseline Inflatable-wing Glider Balloon Launched Unmanned airplane Experiment) project was developed at the University of Kentucky, with an objective to demonstrate feasibility of this technology with a flight-test of an high-altitude glider with inflatable/rigidizable wings. The focus of this thesis research was to design and analyze the wing for this project. The wings are stowed in the fuselage, inflate during ascent, and rigidize with exposure to UV light. The design of wings was evaluated by using aerodynamic and finite element software and wind tunnel testing. The profile is chosen based upon aerodynamic results and consideration of manufacturability of the inflatable wing structures. Flow over prototypes of inflatable/rigidizable and ideal shaped wings were also examined in the wind tunnel. Flow visualization, lift and drag measurements, and wake survey testing methods were performed. Results from the wind tunnel testing are presented along with suggestions in improving the inflatable/rigidizable wings aerodynamic efficiency and use on a low Reynolds number platform. In addition, high altitude wing deployment tests and low altitude flight tests of the inflatable/rigidizable wing were conducted.