During the past decade, efforts were made to develop a new generation of unmanned aircrafts, qualified as Micro-Air Vehicles. The particularity of these systems resides in their maximum dimension limited to 15 cm, which, in terms of aerodynamics, corresponds to low Reynolds number flows (Re ≈ 102 to 104). At low Reynolds number, the concept of flapping wings seems to be an interesting alternative to the conventional fixed and rotary wings. Despite the fact that this concept may lead to enhanced lift forces and efficiency ratios, it allows hovering coupled with a low-noise generation. Previous studies (Dickinson et al. in Science 284:1954–1960, 1999) revealed that the flow engendered by flapping wings is highly vortical and unsteady, inducing significant temporal variations of the loads experienced by the airfoil. In order to enhance the aerodynamic performance of such flapping wings, it is essential to give further insight into the loads generating mechanisms by correlating the spatial and temporal evolution of the vortical structures together with the time-dependent lift and drag. In this paper, Time Resolved Particle Image Velocimetry is used as a basis to evaluate both unsteady forces and vortical structures generated by an airfoil undergoing complex motion (i.e. asymmetric flapping flight), through the momentum equation approach and a multidimensional wavelet-like vortex parameterization method, respectively. The momentum equation approach relies on the integration of flow variables inside and around a control volume surrounding the airfoil (Noca et al. in J Fluids Struct 11:345–350, 1997; Unal et al. in J Fluids Struct 11:965–971, 1997). Besides the direct link performed between the flow behavior and the force mechanisms, the load characterization is here non-intrusive and specifically convenient for flapping flight studies thanks to its low Reynolds flows’ sensitivity and adaptability to moving bodies. Results are supported by a vortex parameterization which evaluates the circulation of the multiple vortices generated in such complex flows. The temporal evolution of the loads matches the flow behavior and hence reveals the preponderant inertial force component and that due to vortical structures.
Experiments in Fluids – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 18, 2009
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