Imitating Flapping Flight

Flapping flight, despite being utilized by creatures of many sizes in nature, remains remarkably difficult to engineer. In this experiment, a simple rectangular wing is flapped up and down sinusoidally. Above a critical flapping frequency, the wing–which is free to rotate–accelerates from rest to a constant speed. This rotation is equivalent to forward flight. The upper image shows a photo and schematic of the setup, while the lower images shows flow visualization of the wing’s wake. The wing moves to the right, shedding thrust-providing periodic vortices in its wake. (Photo credits: N. Vandenberge et al.)

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