Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Anthony N. Palazotto, PhD.


The tobacco hornworm hawkmoth (Manduca sexta) provides an excellent model from which to garner knowledge pertaining to the development of a Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicle (FWMAV). Insect-sized FWMAVs will be used by the future warfighter for reconnaissance, nuclear/chemical/biological hazard sensing, and targeting. One of the major challenges facing FWMAV developers is the energetically demanding nature of low Reynolds flapping flight. Investigating the Manduca sexta thorax/wing flapping mechanism as a mechanical system will provide insight into its inherent efficiency. This thesis examined the energetics of the thorax under static loading and dynamic loading using an innovative load-application technique. It was discovered that the thorax resists compression by a spring constant k=0.62 N/mm under the action of the dorsoventral flight muscles (DVMs). Constant stiffness measurement (CSM) nanoindentation of a major component of the thoracic exoskeleton, the tergum, revealed an elastic modulus of 5 GPa. This value is a benchmark for engineers seeking energy-storing materials for a FWMAV fuselage. Finally, a truly groundbreaking device was developed and used to directly measure the power requirement of the DVMs at Manduca sexta's natural flapping frequency (25 Hz). This effort yielded a mechanical power output of 72-143 W*kg(exp -1) for the DVMs. The feasibility of the author's approach was confirmed by the agreement of this conclusion with published results. The power output requirement confirms the need for lightweight and energy-dense power sources for the fruition of fully-capable FWMAVs.

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DTIC Accession Number