Research

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

In recent years unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have grown in popularity for both military and civilian application and are shifting from a remotely controlled platform to autonomous control. Since no pilot flies onboard an UAV, these craft are much smaller than other fixed-wing aircraft, with wingspans that may range from a few meters to only centimeters. At these sizes, most fixed-wing airfoil theory does not apply because no part of the wing is isolated from end effects. This complicates the prediction of lift and drag on the aircraft, particularly during maneuvering and necessitates the development of new predictive methods and control schemes. Shown above are flow visualizations of a small UAV executing a perching maneuver, intended to allow the craft to land as a bird does by scrubbing speed with a high-angle-of-attack, high-drag motion. (Photo credit: Jason Dorfman; via Hizook; requested by mindscrib)

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