Quad Copter Schlieren

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Schlieren photography is a classic method of flow visualization that utilizes small variations in density (or temperature) to make otherwise unseen air motion visible. Because changing air’s density or temperature changes its index of refraction, variations in either quantity show up as dark and light regions. Here researchers use it to reveal some of the airflow around a small quadcopter, including the vortices that spiral off each propeller and help generate the lift necessary for take-off. The full video includes a couple of neat demos, including what happens when the blades are wet (shown below). In that case, the wingtip vortices are somewhat disrupted by strings of water droplets being flung off the blades by centrifugal force. Beautiful!  (Video and image credit: K. Nolan et al., source; submitted by J. Stafford)

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