Most birds and many insects use periodic wing motion to propel themselves and maneuver. Most conventional flying machines are propelled by rotating machinery controlled by rotors or movable wings. Many of the first generation, powered FWMAVs effectively replaced rotational propulsion modes with flapping wings and maintained control using conventional aerodynamic control surfaces, or in some cases, rotors.
AFRL researchers have designed and developed a tail-less, biomimetic FWMAV that is controlled by utilizing the motion of the flapping wings themselves. By manipulating a few variables that govern the periodic motion of two wings, the time-averaged forces and moments that are applied to the FWMAV can be directly controlled. A resulting implication is that the number of vehicle degrees of freedom controlled can exceed the number of actuators that physically exist on the FWMAV, thereby shifting complexity from mechanical elements to software. Present levels of development allow roll and yaw rotations and horizontal and vertical translations to be controlled using two brushless DC motors or piezoelectric actuators that drive each wing independently. A video of a lecture about the AFRL project can be viewed at: http://www.ifac2011.org/d-b-doman (link is external).
- Multiple independent degrees of freedom yield insect-like flight maneuverability
- Reduced number of actuators minimizes size, weight, complexity, and costs
- US Patents 9,428,269 and 8,700,233 are available for license and commercialization
- Millions of dollars of research from a multi-year effort available in CAD and CAM files, circuit board layout and design, composite structures for wings, and other know-how
- Potential for collaboration with lab researchers