Ornithopter: Bat wings Inspired Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV)

Ornithopter: Bat wings Inspired Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV)

Feb 23, 2016 @ 13:51 |

Over the last few years, interest in Mini and micro aerial vehicles has greatly increased. UAVs have literally changed the way that humans look at the world, enabling users to probe parts of the globe in areas and under conditions that would otherwise prove too dangerous for manned flight. However, Most of the UAVs in production and use today are fixed wing air vehicles.

For bigger size fixed wings based vehicles are fine enough but as the size goes to the micro level flapping wings based aerial vehicles (Ornithopter) are more efficient than traditional fixed wing and rotary flight. Additional advances are like – the flapping wings based MAVs mimics the natural birds’ design that can be useful in stealth surveillance. An emerging trend among MAV developers such as this team is to draw inspiration from the natural world for their designs. By mimicking nature, engineers believe they can create better flight performance, improved controllability and increased efficiencies.

There are lots of bird’s species and a team of researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Southampton have developed bat-inspired wings. Dr Rafael Palacios, from the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London, said: “Nature is a great source of inspiration for us when it comes to making improvements to MAVs. A bat’s ability to expand and compress its wing structure in order to deal with the changing nature of the environment is a particularly useful feature to mimic. The prototype wing we’ve developed could enable a MAV to constantly adapt to their environment in real-time. This ability to reconfigure would also allow multiple missions to be carried out using the same MAV, instead of us having to develop a totally new craft every time it needs to do a new type of task.”

The bat-inspired wings that are made from a polymer membrane and artificial muscles, which means they can be flexible in their configuration. Similar to bats, the prototype wings can change their shape in response to different forces they experience in the air, such as turbulence. The wings incorporate polymers that are activated when an electric current runs through them. This makes the wings stiffen and relax in response, which helps them to contort to the environment they are flying through. This technology uses no mechanical parts, making the wings easier for engineers to maintain.

The bat wings have been developed through a combination of computational modelling research at Imperial and hands-on experimental work at Southampton.

The team modelled air flowing over a bat-inspired wings

The next step for the team is to incorporate the prototype wings into typical MAV designs. They predict the technology will be deployed in real-world scenarios in five years.

The Imperial research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the U.S. Air Force Office for Scientific Research.

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