Biology

Aerodynamic characteristics along the wing span of a dragonfly Pantala flavescens [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Csaba Hefler, Huihe Qiu, and Wei Shyy

We investigated the characteristics of interwing aerodynamic interactions across the span of the high aspect ratio, flexible wings of dragonflies under tethered and free-flying conditions. This revealed that the effects of the interactions on the hindwings vary across four spanwise regions. (i) Close to the wing root, a trailing-edge vortex (TEV) is formed by each stroke, while the formation of a leading-edge vortex (LEV) is limited by the short translational distance of the hindwing and suppressed by the forewing-induced flow. (ii) In the region away from the wing root but not quite up to midspan, the formation of the hindwing LEV is influenced by that of the forewing LEV. This vortex synergy can increase the circulation of the hindwing LEV in the corresponding cross-section by 22% versus that of the hindwing in isolation. (iii) In the region about half-way between the wing root and wing tip there is a transition dominated by downwash from the forewing resulting in flow attached to the hindwing. (iv) A LEV is developed in the remaining, outer region of the wing at the end of a stroke when the hindwing captures the vortex shed by the forewing. The interaction effects depend not only on the wing phasing but also on the flapping offset and flight direction. The aerodynamics of the hindwings vary substantially from the wing root to the wing tip. For a given phasing, this spanwise variation in the aerodynamics can be exploited in the design of artificial wings to achieve greater agility and higher efficiency.

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