The exploration of celestial bodies has recently advanced from rovers to rotorcraft. This includes the recent flights of Mars Ingenuity and the upcoming Dragonfly mission to explore the terrain of Saturn’s moon Titan as part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program. Flight-based landers can travel quickly to sites kilometers apart and land in complex terrain. Although cruise conditions for these rotorcrafts are well understood, studies are necessary to understand take-off and landing. In ground effect conditions, a rotor wake impinges and reflects off the ground, creating changes in aerodynamics such as increased lift. Additionally, operating over loose surfaces, the rotors can create clouds of dust obscuring the vehicle’s sensors, a hazard termed “brownout” from rotorcraft landing in sandy and snowy conditions on Earth. Take-off and landing events involve interactions between the rotor wake, fuselage, and ground, and lead to a multi-phase interface between the fluid atmosphere and the dispersed dust particles. The objective of this study is to computationally model and evaluate ground effect aerodynamic forces on the Dragonfly rotorcraft lander. A calculation of sediment distribution across the surface of the vehicle will provide insight to which components might be most affected by brownout.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair

Kinzel, Michael


Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Restricted to the UCF community until 5-1-2022; it will then be open access.