It is my understanding that the standard method to calculate the lift and drag characteristics of an airfoil is to use formulae and existing data of its coefficients of lift ($C_l$) and drag ($C_d$). However, what methods are employed for a non-standard body (like a sculpture, for example) when such data do not exist and it is impractical to test them experimentally? Is it possible or practical (with computers) to divide the surface of a body into a nominal number of locally-flat planes, and hence calculate the aerodynamic forces acting on each?

  • $\begingroup$ Can you build a small model and test it in a wind tunnel? There are scaling laws you can use to tell how the real thing will behave. Maybe a computer simulation could do it, but I would lean toward experiment, or do both. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey May 2 '17 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your feedback. I was not sure how to go about phrasing the question, but I have not been specific enough. I am specifically interested in the theory of applying the mathematics, and was wondering how that would be done in the absence of existing data. I thought there might be an approach whereby the aerodynamic forces of the whole were calculated as the (infinite) sum of their parts. If it were possible, I was considering developing a computer programme that would do it. $\endgroup$ – POD May 3 '17 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ Then good luck! I would start here. $\endgroup$ – Mike Dunlavey May 4 '17 at 13:46

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