A predictive quasi-steady model of aerodynamic loads on flapping wings

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Quasi-steady aerodynamic models play an important role in evaluating aerodynamic performance and conducting design and optimization of flapping wings. The kinematics of flapping wings is generally a resultant motion of wing translation (yaw) and rotation (pitch and roll). Most quasi-steady models are aimed at predicting the lift and thrust generation of flapping wings with prescribed kinematics. Nevertheless, it is insufficient to limit flapping wings to prescribed kinematics only since passive pitching motion is widely observed in natural flapping flights and preferred for the wing design of flapping wing micro air vehicles (FWMAVs). In addition to the aerodynamic forces, an accurate estimation of the aerodynamic torque about the pitching axis is required to study the passive pitching motion of flapping flights. The unsteadiness arising from the wing’s rotation complicates the estimation of the centre of pressure (CP) and the aerodynamic torque within the context of quasi-steady analysis. Although there are a few attempts in literature to model the torque analytically, the involved problems are still not completely solved. In this work, we present an analytical quasi-steady model by including four aerodynamic loading terms. The loads result from the wings translation, rotation, their coupling as well as the added-mass effect. The necessity of including all the four terms in a quasi-steady model in order to predict both the aerodynamic force and torque is demonstrated. Validations indicate a good accuracy of predicting the CP, the aerodynamic loads and the passive pitching motion for various Reynolds numbers. Moreover, compared to the existing quasi-steady models, the presented model does not rely on any empirical parameters and thus is more predictive, which enables application to the shape and kinematics optimization of flapping wings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-719
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • aerodynamics
  • flow–structure interactions
  • swimming/flying


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