To the Skies! Designing Your Own Aircraft in STK

Flashback to a time of scientific pioneering, 117 years ago Orville and Wilbur Wright set out to prove that powered manned flight was an attainable impossibility. Inspired by Otto Lilienthal (pictured on the right) and his work on the new study of aerodynamics, the two brothers pushed through the unknown. Their only resources were shoddy flight data and bicycle repair tools. Countless tests, failures, crashes, and design iterations eventually led to arguably one of the most important scientific advances in human history.

Wow that sounds like it was hard. Nowadays, we have STK to do all of that for us! All you need to do is click a few buttons to design aircraft platforms and predict aircraft performance without throwing your plane off a cliff and hoping for the best. In order to introduce this little known capability of STK Aviator, I created a UAV design lab that investigates a few of these features.

The STK UAV Design Lab includes supplementary lesson slides that introduce some of the key aerodynamic concepts necessary for flight, a detailed lab manual that goes through how to use each tool in Aviator, a design matrix for organized data keeping, and an answer key to check your work. The lab will walk through how to design, refine, and analyze a customized aircraft design and flight path to meet the mission requirements of a park service UAV mission.

The main take away from the lab is the ability to manipulate an aircraft using the advanced fixed wing tool. In this tool, the user can adjust wing sizing, geometry, drag definitions, and powerplant properties. The effects of all of these adjustments can be visualized with the flight envelope interface inside the advanced fixed wing tool. The flight envelope shows the “limitation” plot for the aircraft. A flight envelope displays the minimum airspeed, maximum airspeed, and flight ceiling for an aircraft. In STK Aviator’s flight envelope, contours for aircraft properties such as specific range can be displayed to find an aircraft’s “sweet spot;” for the range example this means the altitude and airspeed where the maximum fuel economy is achieved.

Once you decide on an aircraft design, you can save it as an aviator aircraft. This allows you to perform analysis with it in STK. This UAV lab is available on the AGI website via this link. Download the lab and have fun becoming one of the Wright Brothers! Thankfully, the Advanced Fixed wing tool will keep you from becoming one of the Wrong Brothers…

More Resources

Webinar Aircraft Design with STK Aviator



Model real-world flight operations and aircraft performance.

Systems Tool Kit (STK)

Modeling and simulation software for digital mission engineering and systems analysis.