Computational study of flexible wing ornithopter flight Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper presents the development and evaluation of a computational fluid dynamics based methodology to predict the aerodynamic forces produced by a flexible flapping wing. The computational fluid dynamics analysis code solves the compressible Reynolds-averaged form of the Navier-Stokes equations on structured curvilinear grids. A grid deformation algorithm is devised that deforms the body-conforming volume grid at each time step consistent with the measured wing motions. This algorithm is based on geometric considerations and is both computationally efficient and capable of handling very large deformations. This methodology is validated using experimental data obtained from a test on an ornithopter with flexible wings. Test data include measurements of the wing surface deformations as well as the generated forces in the horizontal and vertical directions. Correlation with test data shows good agreement with measured vertical force and satisfactory agreement with measured horizontal force at low flapping frequencies. However, the prediction accuracy degrades with an increase in flapping frequency. Evidence of resonance in the vehicle system was detected from the analysis of the experimental data. Unmodeled inertial effects from the vehicle body and support mounts may be one of the contributors to disagreement between the data and analysis.

author list (cited authors)

  • Roget, B., Sitaraman, J., Harmon, R., Grauer, J., Hubbard, J., & Humbert, S.

citation count

  • 24

publication date

  • November 2009