Response of a tethered aerostat to simulated turbulence

Keith A. Stanney, Christopher D. Rahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Aerostats are lighter-than-air vehicles tethered to the ground by a cable and used for broadcasting, communications, surveillance, and drug interdiction. The dynamic response of tethered aerostats subject to extreme atmospheric turbulence often dictates survivability. This paper develops a theoretical model that predicts the planar response of a tethered aerostat subject to atmospheric turbulence and simulates the response to 1000 simulated hurricane scale turbulent time histories. The aerostat dynamic model assumes the aerostat hull to be a rigid body with non-linear fluid loading, instantaneous weathervaning for planar response, and a continuous tether. Galerkin's method discretizes the coupled aerostat and tether partial differential equations to produce a non-linear initial value problem that is integrated numerically given initial conditions and wind inputs. The proper orthogonal decomposition theorem generates, based on Hurricane Georges wind data, turbulent time histories that possess the sequential behavior of actual turbulence, are spectrally accurate, and have non-Gaussian density functions. The generated turbulent time histories are simulated to predict the aerostat response to severe turbulence. The resulting probability distributions for the aerostat position, pitch angle, and confluence point tension predict the aerostat behavior in high gust environments. The dynamic results can be up to twice as large as a static analysis indicating the importance of dynamics in aerostat modeling. The results uncover a worst case wind input consisting of a two-pulse vertical gust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-776
Number of pages18
JournalCommunications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Applied Mathematics


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