Faculty Advisor

William W. Durgin

Faculty Advisor

Hamid Johari

Faculty Advisor

James C. Hermanson

Faculty Advisor

Mayer Humi

Faculty Advisor

Nikolaos A. Gatsonis


The velocity field in the wake of a small scale flexible parachute canopy was measured using two-dimensional particle image velocimetry. The experiments were performed in a water tunnel with the Reynolds number ranging from 3.0-6.0 x 104. Both a fully inflated canopy and the inflation phase were investigated in a constant freestream (i.e. an infinite mass condition). The fully inflated canopy experienced a cyclic“breathing" which corresponded to the shedding of a vortex ring from the canopy. The normalized breathing frequency had a value of 0.56 +/- 0.03. The investigation of the canopy inflation showed that during the early stages of the inflation, the boundary layer on the canopy surface remains attached to the canopy while the canopy diameter increases substantially. The boundary layer begins to separate near the apex region when the diameter is ~68% of the fully inflated diameter. The separation point then progresses upstream from the canopy apex region toward the canopy skirt. During this time period, the force rapidly increases to its maximum value while the separation point of the boundary layer moves upstream towards the skirt. The force then declines rapidly and the separated boundary layer rolls-up into a large vortex ring near the canopy skirt. At the same time, the canopy is drawn into an over-expanded state after which the cyclic breathing initiates. The unsteady potential force was estimated from the rate of change of the canopy volume. It contributed no more than 10% of the peak opening force and was only significant during the early stages of inflation. The majority of the opening force was the result of the time rate of change of the fluid impulse. It accounts for approximately 60% of the peak opening force. This result shows that the formation of the viscous wake is the primary factor in the peak drag force of the canopy.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





parachute shedding characteristics, near wake evolution, parachute inflation, canopy breathing, velocity field measurements, fluid structure interaction, Parachutes, Aerodynamics, Kinematics, Fluid dynamics, Water tunnels