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Coupled Aeroelastic Study of a Flexible Micro Air Vehicle-Scale Flapping Wing in Hovering Flight

James L. Lankford, Inderjit Chopra

Abstract: Instantaneous force and structural deformation experiments were performed on a flexible, structurally characterized, low-aspect-ratio representative flapping wing. A six-component force balance was used to measure aerodynamic-force time history over a flap cycle. A VICON motion capture setup tracked the wing deformations while flapping. Measured aerodynamic forces and wing deformations were compared against coupled computational fluid dynamics/computational structural dynamics (CFD/CSD) aeroelastic analysis results. The CFD solver is an unsteady Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes solver. The CSD solver is a general-purpose multibody dynamics solver capable of modeling geometrically nonlinear beam and shell elements. The CFD/CSD results were able to capture the overall trend in aerodynamic forces and wing deformations. Although predicted and measured variations in lift were similar, the drag-force magnitudes tended to be underpredicted by the coupled aeroelastic solver. The coupled CFD/CSD solver was used to evaluate the influence of wing flexibility on wing performance. Results showed that, in particular instances, decreasing wing stiffness increased the time-averaged aerodynamic lift and lift-to-power ratio. Decreased wing stiffness led to reduced leading-edge vortex circulation strength. This suggests that the increased wing performance is mainly due to a redirection of the resultant force vector allowed by the increased wing compliance.
Keywords: structural / wing / Coupled Aeroelastic / flexibility / solver / modeling / lift / flapping

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