Aiming at establishing an effective computational framework to accurately predict free-flying dynamics and aerodynamics we here present a comprehensive investigation on some issues associated with the modelling of free flight. Free flight modelling/simulation is essential for some types of flights e.g. falling leaves or auto-rotating seeds for plants; unsteady manoeuvres such as take-off, turning, or landing for animals. In addition to acquiring the deeper understanding of the flight biomechanics of those natural organisms, revealing the sophisticated aerodynamic force generation mechanisms employed by them may be useful in designing man-made flying-machines such as rotary or flapping micro air vehicles (MAVs). The simulations have been conducted using the coupling of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and rigid body dynamics, thus achieving the free flight. The flow field is computed with a three-dimensional unsteady incompressible Navier-Stokes solver using pseudo-compressibility and overset gird technique. The aerodynamic forces acting on the flyer are calculated by integrating the forces on the surfaces. Similarly, the aerodynamic torque around the flyer’s centre of mass is obtained. The forces and moments are then introduced into a six degrees-of-freedom rigid body dynamics solver which utilises unit quaternions for attitude description in order to avoid singular attitude. Results are presented of a single body model and some insect-like multi-body models with flapping wings, which point to the importance of free-flight modelling in systematic analyses of flying aerodynamics and manoeuvrability. Furthermore, a comprehensive investigation indicates that the framework is capable to predict the aerodynamic performance of free-flying or even free-swimming animals in an intermediate range of Reynolds numbers (< 105).

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