Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Jonathan T. Black, PhD.


Small unmanned aerial systems are being designed to emulate the flapping kinematics of insects and birds which show superior control in slow speed regimes compared to fixed wing or rotorcraft aircraft. The flight of flapping wing vehicles is characterized by aeroelastic effects. Most research has been dedicated towards understanding the aerodynamic side of the aeroelastic response with minimal effort spent towards validating the structural response. A finite element model of a wing from a commercial flapping wing vehicle was created to validate the structural response. Vacuum testing allowed the isolation of the inertial response for a direct comparison to the finite element model. Wing tip displacement amplitude was matched to within 8%. The membrane kinematics of the finite element model were similar to the vacuum test article but overall membrane deflections predicted by the finite element solver were less than observed deflections seen in the vacuum. This research shows that significant focus must be placed on validating the structural side of a flexible structure in order to correctly model the complete aeroelastic response.

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