Boundary layer ingesting inlets for hybrid wing body aircraft have been investigated at some depth in recent years due to the theoretical potential for fuel burn savings. Such savings derive from the ingestion of a portion of the low momentum wake into the propulsor to reenergize the flow, thus yielding total power savings and reducing required block fuel burn.
A potential concern for BLI is that traditional concepts such as “thrust” and “drag” become less clearly defined due to the interaction between the vehicle aerodynamics and the propulsive thrust achieved. One such interaction for the HWB concept is the lateral location of the inlet on the upper surface which determines the effective Reynolds number at the point of ingestion. This is an important factor in determining the amount of power savings achieved by the system, since the boundary layer, displacement, and momentum thicknesses are functions of the local chord length and airfoil shape which are all functions of the lateral location of the engine. This poses a design challenge for engine layouts with more than two engines as at least one or more of the total engines will be operating at a different set of changing inlet conditions throughout the flight envelope.
As a result, the engine operating point and propulsive performance will be different between outboard and inboard engines at flight conditions with appreciable boundary layer influence including key flight conditions for engine design: takeoff, top of climb, and cruise. The optimal engine design strategy in terms of performance to address this issue is to design separate engines with similar thrust performance. This strategy has significant challenges such as requiring the manufacturing and certification of two different engines for one vehicle. A more practical strategy is to design a single engine that performs adequately at the different inlet conditions but may not achieve the full benefits of BLI.
This paper presents a technique for cycle analysis which can account for the disparity between inlet conditions. This technique was used for two principal purposes: first to determine the effect of the inlet disparity on the performance of the system; second, to analyze the various design strategies that might mitigate the impact of this effect. It is shown that a single engine can be sized when considering both inboard and outboard engines simultaneously. Additionally, it is shown that there is a benefit to ingesting larger mass flows in the inboard engine for the case with large disparity between the engine inlets.