Predicting power-optimal kinematics of avian wings.
ABSTRACT: A theoretical model of avian flight is developed which simulates wing motion through a class of methods known as predictive simulation. This approach uses numerical optimization to predict power-optimal kinematics of avian wings in hover, cruise, climb and descent. The wing dynamics capture both aerodynamic and inertial loads. The model is used to simulate the flight of the pigeon, Columba livia, and the results are compared with previous experimental measurements. In cruise, the model unearths a vast range of kinematic modes that are capable of generating the required forces for flight. The most efficient mode uses a near-vertical stroke-plane and a flexed-wing upstroke, similar to kinematics recorded experimentally. In hover, the model predicts that the power-optimal mode uses an extended-wing upstroke, similar to hummingbirds. In flexing their wings, pigeons are predicted to consume 20% more power than if they kept their wings full extended, implying that the typical kinematics used by pigeons in hover are suboptimal. Predictions of climbing flight suggest that the most energy-efficient way to reach a given altitude is to climb as steeply as possible, subjected to the availability of power.
Project description:Hummingbirds are the only birds that can sustain hovering. This unique flight behaviour comes, however, at high energetic cost. Based on helicopter and aeroplane design theory, we expect that hummingbird wing aspect ratio (AR), which ranges from about 3.0 to 4.5, determines aerodynamic efficacy. Previous quasi-steady experiments with a wing spinner set-up provide no support for this prediction. To test this more carefully, we compare the quasi-steady hover performance of 26 wings, from 12 hummingbird taxa. We spun the wings at angular velocities and angles of attack that are representative for every species and measured lift and torque more precisely. The power (aerodynamic torque × angular velocity) required to lift weight depends on aerodynamic efficacy, which is measured by the power factor. Our comparative analysis shows that AR has a modest influence on lift and drag forces, as reported earlier, but interspecific differences in power factor are large. During the downstroke, the power required to hover decreases for larger AR wings at the angles of attack at which hummingbirds flap their wings (p < 0.05). Quantitative flow visualization demonstrates that variation in hover power among hummingbird wings is driven by similar stable leading edge vortices that delay stall during the down- and upstroke. A side-by-side aerodynamic performance comparison of hummingbird wings and an advanced micro helicopter rotor shows that they are remarkably similar.
Project description:Hummingbirds and nectar bats are the only vertebrates that are specialized for hovering in front of flowers to forage nectar. How their aerodynamic performance compares is, however, unclear. To hover, hummingbirds consistently generate about a quarter of the vertical aerodynamic force required to support their body weight during the upstroke. In contrast, generalist birds in slow hovering flight generate little upstroke weight support. We report that nectar bats also generate elevated weight support during the upstroke compared to generalist bats. Comparing 20 Neotropical species, we show how nectarivorous birds and bats converged on this ability by inverting their respective feathered and membrane wings more than species with other diets. However, while hummingbirds converged on an efficient horizontal wingbeat to mostly generate lift, bats rely on lift and drag during the downstroke to fully support their body weight. Furthermore, whereas the ability of nectar bats to aerodynamically support their body weight during the upstroke is elevated, it is much smaller than that of hummingbirds. Bats compensate by generating more aerodynamic weight support during their extended downstroke. Although, in principle, it requires more aerodynamic power to hover using this method, bats have adapted by evolving much larger wings for their body weight. Therefore, the net aerodynamic induced power required to hover is similar among hummingbirds and bats per unit body mass. This mechanistic insight into how feathered wings and membrane wings ultimately require similar aerodynamic power to hover may inform analogous design trade-offs in aerial robots.
Project description:Flying vertebrates change the shapes of their wings during the upstroke, thereby decreasing wing surface area and bringing the wings closer to the body than during downstroke. These, and other wing deformations, might reduce the inertial cost of the upstroke compared with what it would be if the wings remained fully extended. However, wing deformations themselves entail energetic costs that could exceed any inertial energy savings. Using a model that incorporates detailed three-dimensional wing kinematics, we estimated the inertial cost of flapping flight for six bat species spanning a 40-fold range of body masses. We estimate that folding and unfolding comprises roughly 44 per cent of the inertial cost, but that the total inertial cost is only approximately 65 per cent of what it would be if the wing remained extended and rigid throughout the wingbeat cycle. Folding and unfolding occurred mostly during the upstroke; hence, our model suggests inertial cost of the upstroke is not less than that of downstroke. The cost of accelerating the metacarpals and phalanges accounted for around 44 per cent of inertial costs, although those elements constitute only 12 per cent of wing weight. This highlights the energetic benefit afforded to bats by the decreased mineralization of the distal wing bones.
Project description:We present a computational study of flapping-wing aerodynamics of a calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) during fast forward flight. Three-dimensional wing kinematics were incorporated into the model by extracting time-dependent wing position from high-speed videos of the bird flying in a wind tunnel at 8.3?m?s(-1). The advance ratio, i.e. the ratio between flight speed and average wingtip speed, is around one. An immersed-boundary method was used to simulate flow around the wings and bird body. The result shows that both downstroke and upstroke in a wingbeat cycle produce significant thrust for the bird to overcome drag on the body, and such thrust production comes at price of negative lift induced during upstroke. This feature might be shared with bats, while being distinct from insects and other birds, including closely related swifts.
Project description:Flying animals must successfully contend with obstacles in their natural environments. Inspired by the robust manoeuvring abilities of flying animals, unmanned aerial systems are being developed and tested to improve flight control through cluttered environments. We previously examined steering strategies that pigeons adopt to fly through an array of vertical obstacles (VOs). Modelling VO flight guidance revealed that pigeons steer towards larger visual gaps when making fast steering decisions. In the present experiments, we recorded three-dimensional flight kinematics of pigeons as they flew through randomized arrays of horizontal obstacles (HOs). We found that pigeons still decelerated upon approach but flew faster through a denser array of HOs compared with the VO array previously tested. Pigeons exhibited limited steering and chose gaps between obstacles most aligned to their immediate flight direction, in contrast to VO navigation that favoured widest gap steering. In addition, pigeons navigated past the HOs with more variable and decreased wing stroke span and adjusted their wing stroke plane to reduce contact with the obstacles. Variability in wing extension, stroke plane and wing stroke path was greater during HO flight. Pigeons also exhibited pronounced head movements when negotiating HOs, which potentially serve a visual function. These head-bobbing-like movements were most pronounced in the horizontal (flight direction) and vertical directions, consistent with engaging motion vision mechanisms for obstacle detection. These results show that pigeons exhibit a keen kinesthetic sense of their body and wings in relation to obstacles. Together with aerodynamic flapping flight mechanics that favours vertical manoeuvring, pigeons are able to navigate HOs using simple rules, with remarkable success.
Project description:Many small passerines regularly fly slowly when catching prey, flying in cluttered environments or landing on a perch or nest. While flying slowly, passerines generate most of the flight forces during the downstroke, and have a 'feathered upstroke' during which they make their wing inactive by retracting it close to the body and by spreading the primary wing feathers. How this flight mode relates aerodynamically to the cruising flight and so-called 'normal hovering' as used in hummingbirds is not yet known. Here, we present time-resolved fluid dynamics data in combination with wingbeat kinematics data for three pied flycatchers flying across a range of speeds from near hovering to their calculated minimum power speed. Flycatchers are adapted to low speed flight, which they habitually use when catching insects on the wing. From the wake dynamics data, we constructed average wingbeat wakes and determined the time-resolved flight forces, the time-resolved downwash distributions and the resulting lift-to-drag ratios, span efficiencies and flap efficiencies. During the downstroke, slow-flying flycatchers generate a single-vortex loop wake, which is much more similar to that generated by birds at cruising flight speeds than it is to the double loop vortex wake in hovering hummingbirds. This wake structure results in a relatively high downwash behind the body, which can be explained by the relatively active tail in flycatchers. As a result of this, slow-flying flycatchers have a span efficiency which is similar to that of the birds in cruising flight and which can be assumed to be higher than in hovering hummingbirds. During the upstroke, the wings of slowly flying flycatchers generated no significant forces, but the body-tail configuration added 23 per cent to weight support. This is strikingly similar to the 25 per cent weight support generated by the wing upstroke in hovering hummingbirds. Thus, for slow-flying passerines, the upstroke cannot be regarded as inactive, and the tail may be of importance for flight efficiency and possibly manoeuvrability.
Project description:Intraspecific variation in adult body mass can be particularly high in some insect species, mandating adjustment of the wing's structural properties to support the weight of the larger body mass in air. Insect wings elastically deform during flapping, dynamically changing the twist and camber of the relatively thin and flat aerofoil. We examined how wing deformations during free flight scale with body mass within a species of rose chafers (Coleoptera: Protaetia cuprea) in which individuals varied more than threefold in body mass (0.38-1.29?g). Beetles taking off voluntarily were filmed using three high-speed cameras and the instantaneous deformation of their wings during the flapping cycle was analysed. Flapping frequency decreased in larger beetles but, otherwise, flapping kinematics remained similar in both small and large beetles. Deflection of the wing chord-wise varied along the span, with average deflections at the proximal trailing edge higher by 0.2 and 0.197 wing lengths compared to the distal trailing edge in the downstroke and the upstroke, respectively. These deflections scaled with wing chord to the power of 1.0, implying a constant twist and camber despite the variations in wing and body size. This suggests that the allometric growth in wing size includes adjustment of the flexural stiffness of the wing structure to preserve wing twist and camber during flapping.
Project description:Past studies have shown that birds use their wings not only for flight, but also when ascending steep inclines. Uphill flap-running or wing-assisted incline running (WAIR) is used by both flight-incapable fledglings and flight-capable adults to retreat to an elevated refuge. Despite the broadly varying direction of travel during WAIR, level, and descending flight, recent studies have found that the basic wing path remains relatively invariant with reference to gravity. If so, joints undergo disparate motions to maintain a consistent wing path during those specific flapping modes. The underlying skeletal motions, however, are masked by feathers and skin. To improve our understanding of the form-functional relationship of the skeletal apparatus and joint morphology with a corresponding locomotor behavior, we used XROMM (X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology) to quantify 3-D skeletal kinematics in chukars (Alectoris chukar) during WAIR (ascending with legs and wings) and ascending flight (AF, ascending with wings only) along comparable trajectories. Evidence here from the wing joints demonstrates that the glenohumeral joint controls the vast majority of wing movements. More distal joints are primarily involved in modifying wing shape. All bones are in relatively similar orientations at the top of upstroke during both behaviors, but then diverge through downstroke. Total excursion of the wing is much smaller during WAIR and the tip of the manus follows a more vertical path. The WAIR stroke appears "truncated" relative to ascending flight, primarily stemming from ca. 50% reduction in humeral depression. Additionally, the elbow and wrist exhibit reduced ranges of angular excursions during WAIR. The glenohumeral joint moves in a pattern congruent with being constrained by the acrocoracohumeral ligament. Finally, we found pronounced lateral bending of the furcula during the wingbeat cycle during ascending flight only, though the phasic pattern in chukars is opposite of that observed in starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).
Project description:Animal flight performance has been studied using models developed for man-made aircraft. For an aeroplane with fixed wings, the energetic cost as a function of flight speed can be expressed in terms of weight, wing span, wing area and body area, where more details are included in proportionality coefficients. Flying animals flap their wings to produce thrust. Adopting the fixed wing flight model implicitly incorporates the effects of wing flapping in the coefficients. However, in practice, these effects have been ignored. In this paper, the effects of reciprocating wing motion on the coefficients of the fixed wing aerodynamic power model for forward flight are explicitly formulated in terms of thrust requirement, wingbeat frequency and stroke-plane angle, for optimized wingbeat amplitudes. The expressions are obtained by simulating flights over a large parameter range using an optimal vortex wake method combined with a low-level blade element method. The results imply that previously assumed acceptable values for the induced power factor might be strongly underestimated. The results also show the dependence of profile power on wing kinematics. The expressions introduced in this paper can be used to significantly improve animal flight models.
Project description:Free forward flight of cicadas is investigated through high-speed photogrammetry, three-dimensional surface reconstruction and computational fluid dynamics simulations. We report two new vortices generated by the cicada's wide body. One is the thorax-generated vortex, which helps the downwash flow, indicating a new phenomenon of lift enhancement. Another is the cicada posterior body vortex, which entangles with the vortex ring composed of wing tip, trailing edge and wing root vortices. Some other vortex features include: independently developed left- and right-hand side leading edge vortex (LEV), dual-core LEV structure at the mid-wing region and near-wake two-vortex-ring structure. In the cicada forward flight, approximately 79% of the total lift is generated during the downstroke. Cicada wings experience drag in the downstroke, and generate thrust during the upstroke. Energetics study shows that the cicada in free forward flight consumes much more power in the downstroke than in the upstroke, to provide enough lift to support the weight and to overcome drag to move forward.