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Ornithopter Flight Dynamics and Control

Project Objective

  • To characterize the fundamental aerodynamics principles  governing ornithopter flight. Ornithopters the size of crows are considered as potential intelligence, surveillance, reconaissance platforms with capabilities for perching, hover, sustained forward flight, and short takeoff.
  • To study the flight behavior and dynamic modes associated with desirable flight regimes. This also encompasses calculating the requirements for steady flight in hover or forward flight.
  • To develop a controller to reject disturbances and control trajectories while performing stable steady flight and maneuvers.

Project Description

This work is experimental, theoretical, and computational. We built various testing platforms for studying ornithopter aerodynamics and flight dynamics. These include a stationary wing–flapper for wind–tunnel testing, and an ornithoptic blimp for free flight. The theoretical work comprises aerodynamic modeling of flapping–wing flight, flight–dynamics modeling of the multi–body system, stability analysis of flapping flight using Floquet theory, feedback control design for stability, and open–loop control design for trajectory generation. The computational work is to simulate flights based on the theoretical models and collected data, and also to optimize flight trajectories.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Wind–tunnel model of stationary wing–flapper.

Project Video(s)

Funding Agencies

  • Wright Patterson AFB
  • AFRL
  • Eglin AFB