One of the major challenges in high-speed fan stages used in compact, embedded propulsion systems is inlet distortion noise. A body-force-based approach for the prediction of multiple-pure-tone (MPT) noise was previously introduced and validated. In this paper, it is employed with the objective of quantifying the effects of nonuniform flow on the generation and propagation of MPT noise. First-of-their-kind back-to-back coupled aero-acoustic computations were carried out using the new approach for conventional and serpentine inlets. Both inlets delivered flow to the same NASA/GE R4 fan rotor at equal corrected mass flow rates. Although the source strength at the fan is increased by 38 dB in sound power level due to the nonuniform inflow, far-field noise for the serpentine inlet duct is increased on average by only 3.1 dBA overall sound pressure level in the forward arc. This is due to the redistribution of acoustic energy to frequencies below 11 times the shaft frequency and the apparent cut-off of tones at higher frequencies including blade-passing tones. The circumferential extent of the inlet swirl distortion at the fan was found to be two blade pitches, or 1/11th of the circumference, suggesting a relationship between the circumferential extent of the inlet distortion and the apparent cut-off frequency perceived in the far field. A first-principles-based model of the generation of shock waves from a transonic rotor in nonuniform flow showed that the effects of nonuniform flow on acoustic wave propagation, which cannot be captured by the simplified model, are more dominant than those of inlet flow distortion on source noise. It demonstrated that nonlinear, coupled aerodynamic and aero-acoustic computations, such as those presented in this paper, are necessary to assess the propagation through nonuniform mean flow. A parametric study of serpentine inlet designs is underway to quantify these propagation effects.

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