Unsteady aerodynamics of a pitching-flapping-perturbed revolving wing at low Reynolds number

Long Chen, Jianghao Wu, Chao Zhou, Shih Jung Hsu, Bo Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Due to adverse viscous effects, revolving wings suffer universally from low efficiency at low Reynolds number (Re). By reciprocating wing revolving motion, natural flyers flying at low Re successfully exploit unsteady effects to augment force production and efficiency. Here we investigate the aerodynamics of an alternative, i.e., a revolving wing with concomitant unsteady pitching and vertical flapping perturbations (a pitching-flapping-perturbed revolving wing). The current work builds upon a previous study on flapping-perturbed revolving wings (FP-RWs) and focuses on combined effects of pitching-flapping perturbation on force generation and vortex behaviors. The results show that, compared with a FR-RW, pitching motion further (1) reduces the external driving torque for rotating at 0° angle of attack (α0) and (2) enhances lift and leads to a self-rotating equilibrium at α0 = 20°. The power loading of a revolving wing at α0 = 20° can be improved using pitching-flapping perturbations with large pitching amplitude but small Strouhal number. Additionally, an advanced pitching improves the reduction of external driving torque, whereas a delayed pitching weakens both the lift enhancement and the reduction of external driving torque. Further analysis shows that pitching effects can be mainly decomposed into the Leading-Edge-Vortex (LEV)-mediated pressure component and geometric projection component, together they determine the force performance. LEV circulation is found to be determined by the instantaneous effective angle of attack but could be affected asymmetrically between upstroke and downstroke depending on the nominal angle of attack. Pitching-flapping perturbation thus can potentially inspire novel mechanisms to improve the aerodynamic performance of rotary wing micro air vehicles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number051903
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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