Parasitic drag

Parasitic drag is drag
Drag (physics)
In fluid dynamics, drag refers to forces which act on a solid object in the direction of the relative fluid flow velocity...

 caused by moving a solid object through a fluid medium (in the case of aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...

, more specifically, a gaseous medium). Parasitic drag is made up of many components, the most prominent being form drag. Skin friction and interference drag are also major components of parasitic drag.

In aviation, induced drag tends to be greater at lower speeds because a high angle of attack
Angle of attack
Angle of attack is a term used in fluid dynamics to describe the angle between a reference line on a lifting body and the vector representing the relative motion between the lifting body and the fluid through which it is moving...

 is required to maintain lift
Lift (force)
A fluid flowing past the surface of a body exerts a surface force on it. Lift is the component of this force that is perpendicular to the oncoming flow direction. It contrasts with the drag force, which is the component of the surface force parallel to the flow direction...

, creating more drag. However, as speed increases the induced drag becomes much less, but parasitic drag increases because the fluid is flowing faster around protruding objects increasing friction or drag. At even higher transonic
Transonic speed is an aeronautics term referring to the condition of flight in which a range of velocities of airflow exist surrounding and flowing past an air vehicle or an airfoil that are concurrently below, at, and above the speed of sound in the range of Mach 0.8 to 1.2, i.e. 600–900 mph...

 and supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 speeds, wave drag
Wave drag
In aeronautics, wave drag is a component of the drag on aircraft, blade tips and projectiles moving at transonic and supersonic speeds, due to the presence of shock waves. Wave drag is independent of viscous effects.- Overview :...

 enters the picture. Each of these forms of drag changes in proportion to the others based on speed. The combined overall drag curve therefore shows a minimum at some airspeed - an aircraft flying at this speed will be at or close to its optimal efficiency. Pilots will use this speed to maximize the gliding range in case of an engine failure. However, to maximize the gliding endurance, the aircraft's speed would have to be at the point of minimum power, which occurs at lower speeds than minimum drag. At the point of minimum drag, CD,o (drag coefficient of aircraft when lift equals zero) is equal to CD,i (induced drag coefficient, or coefficient of drag created by lift). At the point of minimum power, CD,o is equal to one third times CD,i. This can be proven by deriving the following equations:


Form drag

Form drag, profile drag, or pressure drag, arises because of the form
The shape of an object located in some space is a geometrical description of the part of that space occupied by the object, as determined by its external boundary – abstracting from location and orientation in space, size, and other properties such as colour, content, and material...

 of the object. The general size and shape of the body is the most important factor in form drag - bodies with a larger apparent cross-section will have a higher drag than thinner bodies. Sleek designs, or designs that are streamlined and change cross-sectional area gradually are also critical for achieving minimum form drag. Form drag follows the drag equation
Drag equation
In fluid dynamics, the drag equation is a practical formula used to calculate the force of drag experienced by an object due to movement through a fully enclosing fluid....

, meaning that it rises with the square of speed, and thus becomes more important for high speed aircraft.

Profile drag (Pxp): depends on the longitudinal section of the body. A diligent choice of body profile is more than essential for low drag coefficient
Drag coefficient
In fluid dynamics, the drag coefficient is a dimensionless quantity that is used to quantify the drag or resistance of an object in a fluid environment such as air or water. It is used in the drag equation, where a lower drag coefficient indicates the object will have less aerodynamic or...

. Streamlines
Streamlines, streaklines and pathlines
Fluid flow is characterized by a velocity vector field in three-dimensional space, within the framework of continuum mechanics. Streamlines, streaklines and pathlines are field lines resulting from this vector field description of the flow...

 should be continuous and separation of the boundary layer
Flow separation
All solid objects travelling through a fluid acquire a boundary layer of fluid around them where viscous forces occur in the layer of fluid close to the solid surface. Boundary layers can be either laminar or turbulent...

 with its attendant vortices
A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...

 should be avoided.

Interference drag

A characteristic that is dominant in bodies in transonic
Transonic speed is an aeronautics term referring to the condition of flight in which a range of velocities of airflow exist surrounding and flowing past an air vehicle or an airfoil that are concurrently below, at, and above the speed of sound in the range of Mach 0.8 to 1.2, i.e. 600–900 mph...

 flow is the concept of
interference drag. One can imagine two bodies of the aircraft (e.g. horizontal and
vertical tail) that intersect at a particular point. Both bodies generate high supervelocities,
possibly even supersonic. However, at the intersection there is less physical
space for the flow to go and even higher supervelocities are generated resulting
in much stronger local shock waves than would be expected if either one of the
two bodies would be considered by itself. The stronger shock wave induces an increase
in wave drag that is termed interference drag. Interference drag plays a role
throughout the entire aircraft (e.g. nacelle
The nacelle is a cover housing that holds engines, fuel, or equipment on an aircraft. In some cases—for instance in the typical "Farman" type "pusher" aircraft, or the World War II-era P-38 Lightning—an aircraft's cockpit may also be housed in a nacelle, which essentially fills the...

s, pylon
A hardpoint, or weapon station, is any part of an airframe designed to carry an external load. This includes a point on the wing or fuselage of military aircraft where external ordnance, countermeasures, gun pods, targeting pods or drop tanks can be mounted.-Rail launchers:Large missiles and...

s, empennage
The empennage , also known as the tail or tail assembly, of most aircraft gives stability to the aircraft, in a similar way to the feathers on an arrow...

) and its detrimental
effect is always kept in mind by designers. Ideally, the pressure distributions on the
intersecting bodies should complement each other’s pressure distribution. If one
body locally displays a negative pressure coefficient, the intersecting body should
have positive pressure coefficient. In reality, however, this is not always possible.
Particular geometric characteristics on aircraft often show how designers have
dealt with the issue of interference drag. A prime example is the wing-body fairing
which smooths the sharp angle between the wing and the fuselage. Another example
is the junction between the horizontal and vertical tail plain in a T-tail . Often, an additional fairing (acorn) is positioned to reduce the added supervelocities.
The position of the nacelle with respect to the wing is a third example of
how interference-drag considerations dominate this geometric feature. For nacelles
that are positioned beneath the wing, the lateral and longitudinal distance from the
wing is dominated by interference-drag considerations. If there is little lateral space
available between the wing and the nacelle (because of ground clearance) the nacelle
is usually positioned much more in front of the wing.

Skin friction

Skin friction arises from the friction of the fluid against the "skin" of the object that is moving through it. Skin friction arises from the interaction between the fluid and the skin of the body, and is directly related to the wetted surface, the area of the surface of the body that is in contact with the fluid. As with other components of parasitic drag, skin friction follows the drag equation
Drag equation
In fluid dynamics, the drag equation is a practical formula used to calculate the force of drag experienced by an object due to movement through a fully enclosing fluid....

 and rises with the square of the velocity
In physics, velocity is speed in a given direction. Speed describes only how fast an object is moving, whereas velocity gives both the speed and direction of the object's motion. To have a constant velocity, an object must have a constant speed and motion in a constant direction. Constant ...


The skin friction coefficient, , is defined by:

Where is the local wall shear stress, is the fluid density and is the free-stream velocity (usually taken outside of the boundary layer or at the inlet).
It is related to the momentum thickness as follows:

For comparison, the turbulent empirical relation known as the 1/7 Power Law (derived by Theodore von Kármán) is:

Skin friction is caused by viscous drag
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

 in the boundary layer
Boundary layer
In physics and fluid mechanics, a boundary layer is that layer of fluid in the immediate vicinity of a bounding surface where effects of viscosity of the fluid are considered in detail. In the Earth's atmosphere, the planetary boundary layer is the air layer near the ground affected by diurnal...

 around the object. The boundary layer at the front of the object is usually laminar and relatively thin, but becomes turbulent and thicker towards the rear. The position of the transition point depends on the shape of the object. There are two ways to decrease friction drag: the first is to shape the moving body so that laminar flow is possible, like an airfoil. The second method is to decrease the length and cross-section of the moving object as much as is practicable. To do so, a designer can consider the fineness ratio
Fineness ratio
Fineness ratio is a term used in naval architecture and aerospace engineering to describe the overall shape of a streamlined body. Specifically, it is the ratio of the length of a body to its maximum width; shapes that are "short and fat" have a low fineness ratio, those that are "long and skinny"...

, which is the length of the aircraft divided by its diameter at the widest point (L/D).
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