The effects of wing flexibility on the flight performance and stability of flapping wing micro air vehicles
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
D. Brian Landrum
Q. H. Zuo
Micro air vehicles., Ornithopters., Aerodynamics., Airplanes--Wings., Animal flight., Wing-warping (Aerodynamics), Drone aircraft.
Insect wings are flexible. However, the influence of wing flexibility on the flight dynamics of insects and flapping wing micro air vehicles is unknown. Most studies in the literature consider rigid wings and conclude that the hover equilibrium is unstable. This dissertation shows that a flapping wing flyer with flexible wings exhibits stable natural modes of the open loop system in hover, never reported before. The free-flight insect flight dynamics is modeled for both flexible and rigid wings. Wing mass and inertia are included in the nonlinear equations of motion. The flapping wing aerodynamics are modeled using a quasi-steady model, a well-validated two dimensional Navier Stokes model, and a coupled, two dimensional Navier Stokes – Euler Bernoulli beam model that accurately models the fluid-structure interaction of flexible wings. Hover equilibrium is systematically and efficiently determined with a coupled quasi-steady and Navier-Stokes equation trimmer. The power and stability are reported at hover while parametrically varying the pitch axis location for rigid wings and the structural stiffness for flexible wings. The results indicate that the rigid wings possess an unstable oscillatory mode mainly due to their pitch sensitivity to horizontal velocity perturbations. The flexible wings stabilize this mode primarily by adjusting their wing shape in the presence of perturbations. The wing’s response to perturbations generates significantly more horizontal velocity damping and pitch rate damping than in rigid wings. Furthermore, the flexible wings experience substantially less wing wake interaction, which, for rigid wings, is destabilizing. The power required to hover a fruit fly with actively rotating rigid wings varies between 16.9 and 34.2 W/kg. The optimal power occurs when the pitch axis is located at 30% chord, similar to some biological observations. Flexible wings require 23.1 to 38.5 W/kg. However, flexible wings exhibit more stable system dynamics and allow for simpler and lighter designs since they do not require pitch actuation mechanisms. This study is the first to evaluate the impact of wing flexibility on the hovering stability of flapping flyers, which can explain the ranges of flexibility seen in insects and can inform designs of synthetic flapping wing robots.
Bluman, James Edward, "The effects of wing flexibility on the flight performance and stability of flapping wing micro air vehicles" (2017). Dissertations. 139.