Frisbee flight

Flow vis of frisbee boundary layer separation (flow is from the top down) – from Potts, J. 2005

Frisbees are super interesting! They generate lift in a way similar to a wing, but because they are so short in a transverse direction, 3d effects dominate. The easiest way to keep stable flight with this sort of shape (aside from gyroscopic stabilisation i.e. throwing it) is to ensure a turbulent boundary layer – which is why frisbees have ridges! The ridges serve to trip the boundary layer and keep it under control, maintaining a more steady lift distribution. Frisbees without ridges are much more sensitive to angle of attack, and harder to throw properly.

I wanted to model this boundary layer separation – and I still have a lot of learning to do! Below is a Q contour animation of my latest model, using LES with the smallest elements on the order of the Taylor microscale. The frisbee was set up at a 5 degree angle of attack with a 15 m/s headwind, which is identical to the image above. The geometry does not have ridges, but it does have a rotating wall boundary condition (counter-clockwise when viewed from above). The weird upstream artifacts are due to a poor mesh from snappyHexMesh – the sharp transition between cell sizes interferes with the LES algorithm, which uses the cell size as a spatial filter – I’ll see if I can get a structured mesh set up.

The aerodynamic coefficients given by this model are C_l ~ 0.20 and C_d ~ 0.10 – the drag coefficient is close to that measured by Potts but the lift coefficient should be closer to 0.4. This likely has a lot to do with the poor mesh.

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