Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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55 unmanned systems inside December 2016/January 2017 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. Free Online Design Software Nowadays designing any aircraft, includ- ing drones, calls for sophisticated computer tools. This is where MachUp comes in. Users do not have to download any software—this web-based 3-D aircraft design tool works on any browser and on any platform, including smartphones and tablets. MachUp is available to anyone at http://aero.go.usu.edu. "I wanted to give people an opportunity to design airframes and analyze them and not have to have a PhD to do it," Hunsaker said. "A lot of the aircraft design software out right now requires a big learning curve. I tried to make the code smart enough to do things without needing the user to know how to do those things." MachUp lets users design an aircraft, in- cluding wings, propellers and basic shapes, and uses 3-D web graphics to render images in a browser. The site also features training tutorials and how-to videos. "You can very easily sketch up an airframe," Hunsaker said. "A lot of startup companies in the drone industry constantly do napkin sketches. It almost takes more time to draw on paper than to put it on MachUp. The quickness with which you can sketch on MachUp is really valuable for drone startup companies, which are constantly iterating, looking at different configurations." Software on a dedicated MachUp server will calculate aerodynamic information about the geometry of that airframe, such as lift, drag and stability. "All the heavy lifting is on our end," Hunsaker said. "I did this work mostly for startups because that's where the drone market is right now, and also for the educational academic world," Hun- saker said. "Those two groups are where I see the biggest demand for a product like this. They are trying to design aircraft on the leading edge, and they need something like this right now." MachUp is free, open-source software. "When I was running my own company, I wanted to charge for it, but when I went into the academic world, I made the deliberate de- cision to make it open source," Hunsaker said. "Enthusiasts can dig into the code to figure out what's going on inside and why it works the way it does, and they can also make it better." The aim of MachUp was "to give the little guy access to this kind of software," Hunsa- Doug Hunsaker, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is offering a free online design tool called MachUp. HOW TO GET IT MACHUP is available to anyone at http://aero.go.usu.edu. This web-based 3-D aircraft design tool works on any browser and platform, including smartphones and tablets. MachUp software can be used to visualize multiple propellers (left screen) and how wings can be connected to form various aircraft geometries including box wings. Pictured (left to right) are grad students Jackson Reid, Jeff Taylor, Orrin Pope, Zach Montgomery and Prof. Hunsacker.