Hydrodynamic performance of ships can be greatly improved by the formation of air cavities under ship bottom with the purpose to decrease water friction on the hull surface. The air-cavity ships using this type of drag reduction are usually designed for and typically effective only in a relatively narrow range of speeds and hull attitudes and sufficient rates of air supply to the cavity. To investigate the behavior of a small-scale air-cavity boat operating under both favorable and detrimental loading and speed conditions, a remotely controlled model hull was equipped with a data acquisition system, video camera and onboard sensors to measure air-cavity characteristics, air supply rate and the boat speed, thrust and trim in operations on open-water reservoirs. These measurements were captured by a data logger and also wirelessly transmitted to a ground station and video monitor. The experimental air-cavity boat was tested in a range of speeds corresponding to length Froude numbers between 0.17 and 0.5 under three loading conditions, resulting in near zero trim and significant bow-up and bow-down trim angles at rest. Reduced cavity size and significantly increased drag occurred when operating at higher speeds, especially in the bow-up trim condition. The other objective of this study was to determine whether computational fluid dynamics simulations can adequately capture the recorded behavior of the boat and air cavity. A computational software Star-CCM+ was utilized with the VOF method employed for multi-phase flow, RANS approach for turbulence modeling, and economical mesh settings with refinements in the cavity region and near free surface. Upon conducting the mesh verification study, several experimental conditions were simulated, and approximate agreement with measured test data was found. Adaptive mesh refinement and time step controls were also applied to compare results with those obtained on the user-generated mesh. Adaptive controls improved resolution of complex shedding patterns from the air cavity but had little impact on overall results. The presented here experimental approach and obtained results indicate that both outdoor experimentation and computationally inexpensive modeling can be used in the process of developing air-cavity systems for ship hulls.

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