Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Anthony N. Palazotto, PhD.


A case is made for why the structures discipline must take on a more central role in the research and design of flapping-wing micro-air-vehicles, especially if research trends continue toward bio-inspired, insect-sized flexible wing designs. In making the case, the eigenstructure of the wing emerges as a key structural metric for consideration. But with virtually no structural dynamic data available for actual insect wings, both engineered and computational wing models that have been inspired by biological analogs have no structural truth models to which they can be anchored. An experimental framework is therefore developed herein for performing system identification testing on the wings of insects. This framework is then utilized to characterize the structural dynamics of the forewing of a large sample of hawkmoth (Manduca Sexta) for future design and research consideration. The research also weighs-in on a decade-long debate as to the relative contributions that the inertial and fluid dynamic forces acting on a flapping insect wing have on its deformation (expression) during flight. Ultimately the findings proves that both affect wing expression significantly, casting serious doubt on the longstanding and most frequently cited research that indicates fluid dynamic forces have minimal or negligible effect.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number