Flapping insect wings experience appreciable deformation due to aerodynamic and inertial forces. This deformation is believed to benefit the insect’s aerodynamic force production as well as energetic efficiency. However, the fluid-structure interaction (FSI) models used to estimate wing deformations are often computationally demanding and are therefore challenged by parametric studies. Here, we develop a simple FSI model of a flapping wing idealized as a two-dimensional pitching-plunging airfoil. Using the Lagrangian formulation, we derive the reduced-order structural framework governing wing’s elastic deformation. We consider two fluid models: quasi-steady Deformable Blade Element Theory (DBET) and Unsteady Vortex Lattice Method (UVLM). DBET is computationally economical but does not provide insight into the flow structure surrounding the wing, whereas UVLM approximates flows but requires more time to solve. For simple flapping kinematics, DBET and UVLM produce similar estimates of the aerodynamic force normal to the surface of a rigid wing. More importantly, when the wing is permitted to deform, DBET and UVLM agree well in predicting wingtip deflection and aerodynamic normal force. The most notable difference between the model predictions is a roughly 20° phase difference in normal force. DBET estimates wing deformation and force production approximately 15 times faster than UVLM for the parameters considered, and both models solve in under a minute when considering 15 flapping periods. Moving forward, we will benchmark both low-order models with respect to high fidelity computational fluid dynamics coupled to finite element analysis, and assess the agreement between DBET and UVLM over a broader range of flapping kinematics.

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