Flapping Wing Micro Aerial Robots – (I) Wing Compliance

Flapping Wing Micro Aerial Robots – (I) Wing Compliance

Micro aerial robotics has been a nascent research interest due to its vast application potential. There have been a number of potential designs that have been tested including fixed wing, quadrotors, rotatory etc. as a suitable platforms. However these platforms are unsuitable at smaller scales due to a number of factors including aerodynamics inefficiency and limited maneuverability [1&2]. Flapping flight offers significant advantages in this realm due to the capacity to generate significant aerodynamics forces even at small scales as demonstrated by the myriad of biological systems that utilize this mode for powered flight [2]. A critical challenge in the development of flapping wing micro robots is designing wings capable of generating the necessary aerodynamic forces. Biological systems such as insects and birds possess wings that are highly compliant which has been attributed to increased efficiency [2]. Our understanding of the fundamental mechanics of wing compliance at small scale and the associated aerodynamic force generations remains unclear.

The aim of this project is to understand how wing compliance and flexibility influences aerodynamic force production necessary for flight. The aerodynamic forces generated by flexible flapping wings will likely depend on many factors such as kinematics, wing shape and its  material (thickness); fluid-solid interaction (FSI) around the wing surface. Flexibility has been recognized as a key factor for flapping wing aerodynamics. Indeed, the present research will focus more on the study of complex fluid-structure interactions, flapping wing deformation, twisting and stiffness, which significantly leads to the flapping performance. Due to complexity, many people examine the wing deformation in terms of span-wise and chord-wise corrugated camber. Still, the unsteady 3D fluid flow phenomena are not yet fully explored. A direct consequence of this study will result in the fabrication of bio-inspired compliant wings that can are aerodynamically efficient while being damage tolerant.


[1] Shyy, W., Kang, C., Chirarattananon, P., Ravi, S., Liu, H., “Aerodynamics, sensing and
control of insect-scale flapping-wing flight”, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical,
Physical and Engineering Sciences, 472, 1 – 38, 2016.
[2] Dudley, R., The Biomechanics of Insect Flight: Form, Function, Evolution, Princeton
University Press, 2002.


Postgraduate Research Scholarships
International Postgraduate Research Scholarships
Dr Sridhar Ravi