Aerodynamic comparisons of membrane wings with cambered and flat frames at low reynolds number

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University of Alabama Libraries

The limited size of micro air vehicles (MAVs) requires small power sources, leading to a need for high aerodynamic efficiency. Flexible membrane wings at the MAV scale can experience improved lift/drag ratios, delays in stall, and decreased time-averaged flow separation when compared to rigid wings. This research thesis examines the effect of frame camber on the aerodynamic characteristics of membrane wings. The frames for the wings were designed in SolidWorks and constructed using an Objet30 Pro 3D printer. The membranes are composed of silicone rubber. Tests were conducted in The University of Alabama’s low-speed wind tunnel in 135 Hardaway Hall in low Reynolds number flow (Re ~ 50,000). Aerodynamic force and moment measurements were acquired at angles-of-attack varying from -4 to 24°. The results were used to determine whether cambered frames provide membrane wings with aerodynamic advantages when compared to those with flat frames. Additionally, a digital image correlation (DIC) camera system was used to acquire time-averaged shapes for the membrane wings during wind tunnel tests. The wings were mounted vertically at angles-of-attack of 6° and 18° to represent the regions of maximum efficiency and approaching stall, respectively. An in-house MATLAB program was developed to average the deflection plots from the images and produce time-averaged shapes. Lifting-line theory was applied to the time-averaged shapes to calculate theoretical lift and induced drag coefficients. The experimental set-up, results, and conclusions are discussed.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Aerospace engineering