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Design, Analysis and Testing of a Flapping Wing Miniature Air Vehicle (Mechanical Project)

Flapping wing miniature air vehicles (MAVs) offer several advantageous performance benefits, relative to fixed-wing and rotary-wing MAVs. The goal of this thesis is to design a flapping wing MAV that achieves improved performance by focusing on the flapping mechanism and the spar arrangement in the wings.

Two variations of the flapping mechanism are designed and tested, both using compliance as a technique for improved functionality. In the design of these mechanisms, kinematics and dynamics simulation is used to evaluate how forces encountered during wing flapping affect the mechanism. Finite element analysis is used to evaluate the stress and deformation of the mechanism, such that a lightweight yet functional design can be realized. The wings are tested using experimental techniques. These techniques include high speed photography, stiffness measurement, and lift and thrust measurements. Experimentally measured force results are validated with a series of flight tests.

A framework for iterative improvement of the MAV is described, that uses the results of physical testing and simulations to investigate the underlying causes of MAV performance aspects; and seeks to capture those beneficial aspects that will allow for performance improvements. Wings and flapping mechanisms designed in this thesis are used to realize a bird-inspired flapping wing miniature air vehicle. This vehicle is capable of radio controlled flights indoors and outdoors in winds up to 6.7m/s with controlled steering, ascent, and descent, as well as payload carrying abilities.
Source: University of Maryland
Author: John William Gerdes

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