Flow Visualization around a Flapping-Wing Micro Air Vehicle in Free Flight Using Large-Scale PIV

Alex Del Estal Herrero, Mustafa Perçin, Matej Karasek, Bas van Oudheusden

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Flow visualizations have been performed on a free flying, flapping-wing micro air vehicle (MAV), using a large-scale particle image velocimetry (PIV) approach. The PIV method involves the use of helium-filled soap bubbles (HFSB) as tracer particles. HFSB scatter light with much higher intensity than regular seeding particles, comparable to that reflected off the flexible flapping wings. This enables flow field visualization to be achieved close to the flapping wings, in contrast to previous PIV experiments with regular seeding. Unlike previous tethered wind tunnel measurements, in which the vehicle is fixed relative to the measurement setup, the MAV is now flown through the measurement area. In this way, the experiment captures the flow field of the MAV in free flight, allowing the true nature of the flow representative of actual flight to be appreciated. Measurements were performed for two different orientations of the light sheet with respect to the flight direction. In the first configuration, the light sheet is parallel to the flight direction, and visualizes a streamwise plane that intersects the MAV wings at a specific spanwise position. In the second configuration, the illumination plane is normal to the flight direction, and visualizes the flow as the MAV passes through the light sheet
Original languageEnglish
Article number99
Number of pages15
JournalAerospace — Open Access Aeronautics and Astronautics Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2018


  • micro air vehicle
  • flapping-wing MAV
  • free flight flow visualization
  • particle image velocimetry
  • helium filled soap bubbles
  • OA-Fund TU Delft


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