EXPERIMENTAL AND COUPLED CFD/CSD INVESTIGATION OF FLEXIBLE MAV-SCALE FLAPPING WINGS IN HOVER
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Due to their potential to expand our sensing and mission capabilities in both military and civilian applications, micro air vehicles (MAVs) have recently gained increased recognition. However, man-made MAVs have struggled to meet the aerodynamic performance and maneuvering capabilities of biological flapping wing flyers (small birds and insects) which operate at MAV-scales (Reynolds numbers on the order of 103–104). Several past studies have focused on developing and analyzing flapping-wing MAV designs due to the possibility of achieving the increased lift, performance and flight capabilities seen in biological flapping wing flyers. However, there are still a lack of baseline design principles to follow when constructing a flexible flapping wing for a given set of wing kinematics, target lift values, mission capabilities, etc. This is due to the limited understanding of the complex, unsteady flow and aeroelastic effects intrinsic to flexible flapping wings. In the current research, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) solver was coupled with a computational structural dynamics (CSD) solver to simulate the aerodynamics and inherent aeroelastic effects of a flexible flapping wing in hover. The coupled aeroelastic solver was validated against experimental test data to assess the predictive capability of the coupled solver. The predicted and experimental results showed good correlation over several different test cases. Experimental tests included particle image velocimetry (PIV) measurements, instantaneous aerodynamic force measurements and dynamic wing deformation recordings via a motion capture system. The aeroelastic solver was able to adequately predict the process of leading edge vortex (LEV) formation and shedding observed during experimentation. Additionally, the instantaneous lift and drag force-time histories as well as passive wing deformations agreed satisfactorily with the experimental measurements. The coupled CFD/CSD solver was used to determine how varied wing structural compliance influences aerodynamic force production, temporal and spatial evolution of the flowfield and overall wing performance. Results showed that for the wings tested, decreasing wing stiffness, especially toward the wing root, increased the time-averaged aerodynamic lift with minimal effect on drag. This is primarily due to prolonged sustainment of the LEVs produced during flapping and suggests that aeroelastic tailoring of flapping wings could improve performance.