Date of Graduation
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Patrick H Browning
Peter D Gall
Wade W Huebsch
Yogendra M Panta
The flight of birds has intrigued and motivated man for many years. Bird flight served as the primary inspiration of flying machines developed by Leonardo Da Vinci, Otto Lilienthal, and even the Wright brothers. Avian flight has once again drawn the attention of the scientific community as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are not only becoming more popular, but smaller. Birds are once again influencing the designs of aircraft. Small UAVs operating within flight conditions and low Reynolds numbers common to birds are not yet capable of the high levels of control and agility that birds display with ease. Many researchers believe the potential to improve small UAV performance can be obtained by applying features common to birds such as feathers and flapping flight to small UAVs. Although the effects of feathers on a wing have received some attention, the effects of localized transient feather motion and surface geometry on the flight performance of a wing have been largely overlooked. In this research, the effects of freely moving feathers on a preserved red tailed hawk wing were studied. A series of experiments were conducted to measure the aerodynamic forces on a hawk wing with varying levels of feather movement permitted. Angle of attack and air speed were varied within the natural flight envelope of the hawk. Subsequent identical tests were performed with the feather motion constrained through the use of externally-applied surface treatments. Additional tests involved the study of an absolutely fixed geometry mold-and-cast wing model of the original bird wing. Final tests were also performed after applying surface coatings to the cast wing. High speed videos taken during tests revealed the extent of the feather movement between wing models. Images of the microscopic surface structure of each wing model were analyzed to establish variations in surface geometry between models. Recorded aerodynamic forces were then compared to the known feather motion and surface geometry to correlate the performance to these two features. The results of this study revealed that the performance of the bird wing was directly affected by feather motion. It was also found that the motion of covert and secondary covert feathers had the greatest influence on the performance. Increased coefficients of lift and drag were found when higher frequencies of these feathers were observed. Noticeable reductions in the coefficient of drag were found to be associated with micron level variations in the depth of surface features on the wing.
Cox, Jordan A., "Comparative Analysis of Uninhibited and Constrained Avian Wing Aerodynamics" (2016). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 5404.