Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships

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Dhwanil Shukla

Georgia Institute of Technology

Dhwanil received his B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering with Honors from the Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar, India in 2014, winning the Institute Gold Medal for being first in mechanical engineering and the 2014 President’s Gold Medal. He also worked at Caltech as a summer undergraduate research fellow in 2013, where he performed experiments for characterizing a new high temperature shape memory alloy (NiTiHf) for aerospace applications. His work at Caltech resulted in a NASA technical memorandum paper and a journal publication in Acta Materialia. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in the school of aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech. He is a part of the Experimental Aerodynamics Lab, guided by Prof. Narayanan Komerath. Dhwanil is a two-time VFF winner: once as a M.S. student in 2015, and recently as a PhD student in 2017.

How did you get interested in vertical flight?

"By the end of my undergraduate degree, I was keen on working in the field aerodynamics. I discovered that rotorcraft aerodynamics is an ever exciting area because there are so many complex aerodynamic phenomena occurring simultaneously. While research in the area of fixed wing aircrafts have reached close to saturation, vertical flight offers innumerous research avenues due to increasing public interest in VTOL for personal transportation and goods delivery."

What impact has receiving the VFF scholarship had for you?

"VFF scholarships have helped me defray travel expense to attend the AHS Forum 71 and 73. The Forum give awesome exposure to research done all over the world in the field of VTOL and is a great place to network. The scholarships also served as a great form of recognition and have encouraged me to do better."

What are some of your current projects or research interests?

"The Experimental Aerodynamics lab does significant research in helicopter and VTOL aerodynamics, studying flow fields using innovative methods and diagnostic techniques. I have studied reverse flow in the retreating side of the helicopter rotor at high advance ratio using stereo particle image velocimetry (S-PIV) flow diagnosis techniques. I have also been involved in bluff body aerodynamic loads study for use in prediction of slung load dynamics of arbitrary object shapes when hung from a helicopter using a tether. My thesis project is on experimental study of multi-rotor aerodynamic interactions, under which I am studying flow phenomena occurring due to aerodynamic interactions between multiple low-Reynolds number rotors in close proximity, such as in small size UAVs."

Tell us about your future plans.

"After my doctoral study at Georgia Tech, I wish to build my career as a researcher studying complicated aerodynamics concepts, mostly staying in academia."

What do Dhwanil's mentors have to say?

"Dhwanil shows what an excellent grasp of the fundamentals enables an engineer to do. I lost quite a few arguments with him on fluid mechanics early in the process of his studying for the PhD Qualifying exams. He brought skills in solid mechanics from his CalTech internship and undergraduate work, and has erased the boundaries where we defined our capabilities. These days his team of mostly freshmen and sophomores is able to develop electronic control circuits, combine 3-D printing with cardboard and metalwork in model-building, run wind tunnel tests, and do design optimization trade studies as well as we do flow diagnostics. Dhwanil’s virtual reality modeling skills bring another dimension. His fast concept study presented at Forum 2016 combined model-building, bluffbody aerodynamics, slung load dynamic simulation, aerostat performance, and cycloidal rotor sizing, all framed with his new-found design optimization skills. He has got us off to an excellent start in the area of low Reynolds number UAV aerodynamics and fluid mechanics, his thesis area. I hear that he has been elected head of the GT chapter of ASHA for Education, a global organization that runs projects among those who need them most. I am sure that his leadership skills there extend well beyond his particular talents as “half-marathon runner”, gourmet chef, and food stall operator at their fundraising events."

Prof. Narayanan Komerath
Georgia Institute of Technology

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