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Bioinspir Biomim. 2011 Dec;6(4):045002. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/6/4/045002. Epub 2011 Nov 29.

Aerodynamics of a bio-inspired flexible flapping-wing micro air vehicle.

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  • 1Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University, Chiba 263-8522, Japan.

Abstract

MAVs (micro air vehicles) with a maximal dimension of 15 cm and nominal flight speeds of around 10 m s⁻¹, operate in a Reynolds number regime of 10⁵ or lower, in which most natural flyers including insects, bats and birds fly. Furthermore, due to their light weight and low flight speed, the MAVs' flight characteristics are substantially affected by environmental factors such as wind gust. Like natural flyers, the wing structures of MAVs are often flexible and tend to deform during flight. Consequently, the aero/fluid and structural dynamics of these flyers are closely linked to each other, making the entire flight vehicle difficult to analyze. We have recently developed a hummingbird-inspired, flapping flexible wing MAV with a weight of 2.4-3.0 g and a wingspan of 10-12 cm. In this study, we carry out an integrated study of the flexible wing aerodynamics of this flapping MAV by combining an in-house computational fluid dynamic (CFD) method and wind tunnel experiments. A CFD model that has a realistic wing planform and can mimic realistic flexible wing kinematics is established, which provides a quantitative prediction of unsteady aerodynamics of the four-winged MAV in terms of vortex and wake structures and their relationship with aerodynamic force generation. Wind tunnel experiments further confirm the effectiveness of the clap and fling mechanism employed in this bio-inspired MAV as well as the importance of the wing flexibility in designing small flapping-wing MAVs.

PMID:
22126793
DOI:
10.1088/1748-3182/6/4/045002
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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