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This research investigated the behavior of a Manduca sexta inspired biomimetic wing as a function of Reynolds number by measuring the aerodynamic forces produced by varying the characteristic wing length and testing at air densities from atmospheric to near vacuum. A six degree of freedom balance was used to measure forces and moments, while high speed cameras were used to measure wing stroke angle. An in-house created graphical user interface was used to vary the voltage of the drive signal sent to the piezoelectric actuator which determined the wing stroke angle. The Air Force Institute of Technology baseline 50 mm wing was compared to wings manufactured with 55, 60, 65, and 70 mm spans, while maintaining a constant aspect ratio. Tests were conducted in a vacuum chamber at air densities between 0.5% and 100% of atmospheric pressure. Increasing the wingspan increased the wing’s weight, which reduced the first natural frequency; and did not result in an increase in vertical force over the baseline 50 mm wing. However, if the decrease in natural frequency corresponding to the increased wing span was counteracted by increasing the thickness of the joint material in the linkage mechanism, vertical force production increased over the baseline wing planform. Of the wings built with the more robust flapping mechanism, the 55 mm wing span produced 95% more vertical force at a 26% higher flapping frequency, while the 70 mm wing span produced 165% more vertical force at a 10% lower frequency than the Air Force Institute of Technology baseline wing. Negligible forces and moments were measured at vacuum, where the wing exhibited predominantly inertial motion, revealing flight forces measured in atmosphere are almost wholly limited to interaction with the surrounding air. Lastly, there was a rough correlation between Reynolds number and vertical force, indicating Reynolds number is a useful modelling parameter to predict lift and corresponding aerodynamic coefficients for a specific wing design.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. CC BY 4.0

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International Journal of Micro Air Vehicles