Forewings match the formation of leading-edge vortices and dominate aerodynamic force production in revolving insect wings

Di Chen, Dmitry Kolomenskiy, Toshiyuki Nakata, Hao Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In many flying insects, forewings and hindwings are coupled mechanically to achieve flapping flight synchronously while being driven by action of the forewings. How the forewings and hindwings as well as their morphologies contribute to aerodynamic force production and flight control remains unclear. Here we address the point that the forewings can produce most of the aerodynamic forces even with the hindwings removed through a computational fluid dynamic study of three revolving insect wing models, which are identical to the wing morphologies and Reynolds numbers of hawkmoth (Manduca sexta), bumblebee (Bombus ignitus) and fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster). We find that the forewing morphologies match the formation of leading-edge vortices (LEV) and are responsible for generating sufficient lift forces at the mean angles of attack and the Reynolds numbers where the three representative insects fly. The LEV formation and pressure loading keep almost unchanged with the hindwing removed, and even lead to some improvement in power factor and aerodynamic efficiency. Moreover, our results indicate that the size and strength of the LEVs can be well quantified with introduction of a conical LEV angle, which varies remarkably with angles of attack and Reynolds numbers but within the forewing region while showing less sensitivity to the wing morphologies. This implies that the forewing morphology very likely plays a dominant role in achieving low-Reynolds number aerodynamic performance in natural flyers as well as in revolving and/or flapping micro air vehicles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number016009
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • insect
  • leading-edge vortex
  • lift
  • power factor
  • revolving insect wing
  • torque
  • wing morphology

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