Modelling wing wake and tail aerodynamics of a flapping-wing micro aerial vehicle

S. F. Armanini*, J. V. Caetano, C. C. de Visser, M. D. Pavel, G. C.H.E. de Croon, M. Mulder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
185 Downloads (Pure)


Despite significant interest in tailless flapping-wing micro aerial vehicle designs, tailed configurations are often favoured, as they offer many benefits, such as static stability and a simpler control strategy, separating wing and tail control. However, the tail aerodynamics are highly complex due to the interaction between the unsteady wing wake and tail, which is generally not modelled explicitly. We propose an approach to model the flapping-wing wake and hence the tail aerodynamics of a tailed flapping-wing robot. First, the wake is modelled as a periodic function depending on wing flap phase and position with respect to the wings. The wake model is constructed out of six low-order sub-models representing the mean, amplitude and phase of the tangential and vertical velocity components. The parameters in each sub-model are estimated from stereo-particle image velocimetry measurements using an identification method based on multivariate simplex splines. The computed model represents the measured wake with high accuracy, is computationally manageable and is applicable to a range of different tail geometries. The wake model is then used within a quasi-steady aerodynamic model, and combined with the effect of free-stream velocity, to estimate the forces produced by the tail. The results provide a basis for further modelling, simulation and design work, and yield insight into the role of the tail and its interaction with the wing wake in flapping-wing vehicles. It was found that due to the effect of the wing wake, the velocity seen by the tail is of a similar magnitude as the free stream and that the tail is most effective at 50–70% of its span.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Micro Air Vehicles
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2019


  • aerodynamic modelling
  • Flapping-wing micro air vehicle
  • flapping-wing wake
  • system identification
  • tail-wing wake interaction
  • OA-Fund TU Delft


Dive into the research topics of 'Modelling wing wake and tail aerodynamics of a flapping-wing micro aerial vehicle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this