Thursday, February 16, 2006


Of Flying Cars

There have been so many attempts to build small cars that can fly from short runways. The latest is an attempt by MIT guys which may or may not be successful. The problem may be our limited imagination. No human alive can conjure up a design in his/her head and predict if the machine is going to fly. To get around the problem I suggest we use a variant of genetic algorithm and CFD analysis tool to obtain a design. Here is an algorithm.
  1. Convert an airplane outer body shape into a vector. This can be done by breaking the airplane into millions of small volumes or however you want. Ideally any vector imaginable should define a structure.
  2. Create a base set (population) of vectors from available plane designs and probably birds.
  3. Write code to convert the vectors back into a shape that can be simulated in a CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) solver like CFX or OpenFoam.
  4. Define a survivability criterion for each design. This can be based on criteria like lift provided by the design, Volume, Surface area, stability. These data can be obtained by analysis of the output of a CFD solver.
  5. Now in a loop, until a good design is found.
    1. Select two designs from the population. Decide a crossover point break the vectors of the 2 designs at the crossover point and rejoin to the half vector from the other design,(crossover)
    2. Perform mutations with some probability.
    3. Determine if both the new vectors are valid design. (Plane with holes in wings.. Whatever u can think of that is obvious it not going to work.)
    4. Run CFD analysis on the designs and determine the survivability.
    5. If the designs are good (survivability > cutoff) add designs to the population and repeat loop. Else discard design and repeat loop.
Now a CFD analysis on a simple car takes a few days to complete. So to perform CFD on the millions of possible designs will take ages. So we should think of ideas from machine learning to minimize repeated effort, Also large scale distributed processing like SETI can be probably thought of. Also I coding for any of the above steps will be a project in itself. May be the idea itself is not practical. But its fun to think about it.

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