The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

Research project: Towards biologically-inspired active-compliant-wing micro-air-vehicles

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Natural fliers achieve exceptional aerodynamics by continuous adjustments on their geometry through a mix of dynamic wing compliance and distributed sensing and actuation.  This enables them to routinely perform a wide range of manoeuvres including rapid turns, rolls, dives, and climbs with seeming ease.

Project Overview

Despite a good knowledge of the physiology of bats and birds, engineering applications with active dynamic wing compliance capability are currently few and far between.  Recent advances in development of electroactive materials together with high-fidelity numerical/experimental methods provide a foundation to develop biologically-inspired dynamically-active wings that can achieve "on-demand" aerodynamic performance.  However this requires first to develop a thorough understanding of the dynamic coupling between the electro-mechanical structure of the membrane wing and its unsteady aerodynamics.  In this collaborative initiative between the University of Southampton and Imperial College London, we are developing an integrated research programme that carries out high-fidelity experiments and computations to achieve a fundamental understanding of the dynamics of aero-electro-mechanical coupling in dynamically-actuated compliant wings.  The goal is to utilise our understanding and devise control strategies that use integral actuation schemes to improve aerodynamic performance of membrane wings.  The long-term goal of this project is to enable the use of soft robotics technology to build integrally-actuated wings for Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) that mimic the dynamic shape control capabilities of natural flyers.

Related research groups

Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics

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