Investigation of Aerodynamics of Flapping Wings for Miro Air Vehicle Applications

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A coupled CFD-CSD solver was used to simulate the aerodynamics of a flexible flapping wing. The CFD solver is a compressible RANS (Reynolds Averaged Navier Stokes) solver. Multibody dynamics solver `MBDyn', was used as the structural solver to take into account non linear shell straining, making it possible to analyze low aspect ratio wings with large deformations. Validation of the two codes was carried out independently. The solvers were then coupled using python and validated against prior experiments and analysis on spanwise and chordwise flexible wings.

As realistic MAV wings are extremely flexible and lightweight, under the effect of high inertial and aerodynamic forces, they undergo large non linear deformations over a flap cycle. However, there is a dearth of experimental data on well characterized flapping wings (with known structural and mass properties) at MAV-scale Reynolds numbers. Systematic experiments were carried out on rigid and flexible flapping wings in an open jet wind tunnel and forces were measured using a test bed. Pure flapping of rigid wings did not generate sufficient propulsive force and may not be a viable configuration. Passive pitching of rigid wing generated both, target vertical and propulsive forces. Dynamic wing twist was then incorporated using flexible wings. A flexible wing was fabricated using a combination of unidirectional carbon fiber strips (chordwise ribs), carbon rod (leading edge spar) and mylar film (membrane). Structural model of the wing (combination of beam and shell elements) was developed and then coupled to the CFD model. CFD-CSD analysis of flexible wing was carried out and good correlation was obtained for all the configurations. This comprehensive experimental data set can also be used to validate other aeroelastic analyses of the future. Further, the analysis was used to gain more insights into flow physics. It was observed that as a result of flexibility, by taking advantage of unsteady flow features, a lighter, simpler mechanism could be used to produce larger forces than a rigid wing. The validated, comprehensive analysis developed in this work may serve as a design tool for deciding configurations and wing kinematics of next generation MAVs.