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Bioinspired morphing wings for extended flight envelope and roll control of small drones

  • Authors: di Luca, Matteo; Mintchev, Stefano; Heitz, Grégoire Hilaire Marie; Noca, Flavio; Floreano, Dario

Small-winged drones can face highly varied aerodynamic requirements, such as high manoeuvrability for flight among obstacles and high wind resistance for constant ground speed against strong headwinds that cannot all be optimally addressed by a single aerodynamic profile. Several bird species solve this problem by changing the shape of their wings to adapt to the different aerodynamic requirements. Here, we describe a novel morphing wing design composed of artificial feathers that can rapidly modify its geometry to fulfil different aerodynamic requirements. We show that a fully deployed configuration enhances manoeuvrability while a folded configuration offers low drag at high speeds and is beneficial in strong headwinds. We also show that asymmetric folding of the wings can be used for roll control of the drone. The aerodynamic performance of the morphing wing is characterized in simulations, in wind tunnel measurements and validated in outdoor flights with a small drone.

Posted on: December 20, 2016