Vortexlet models of flapping flexible wings show tuning for force production and control

Bioinspir Biomim. 2010 Dec;5(4):045005. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/5/4/045005. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Insect wings are compliant structures that experience deformations during flight. Such deformations have recently been shown to substantially affect induced flows, with appreciable consequences to flight forces. However, there are open questions related to the aerodynamic mechanisms underlying the performance benefits of wing deformation, as well as the extent to which such deformations are determined by the boundary conditions governing wing actuation together with mechanical properties of the wing itself. Here we explore aerodynamic performance parameters of compliant wings under periodic oscillations, subject to changes in phase between wing elevation and pitch, and magnitude and spatial pattern of wing flexural stiffness. We use a combination of computational structural mechanics models and a 2D computational fluid dynamics approach to ask how aerodynamic force production and control potential are affected by pitch/elevation phase and variations in wing flexural stiffness. Our results show that lift and thrust forces are highly sensitive to flexural stiffness distributions, with performance optima that lie in different phase regions. These results suggest a control strategy for both flying animals and engineering applications of micro-air vehicles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Animals
  • Biomimetic Materials*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Equipment Design
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Wings, Animal / physiology*