Student: Delainey Mack

Project: Aerodynamics of Insect Hovering Flight Methods

Poster: Vertical (PDF) | Horizontal (PDF)

Institution: Lafayette College

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Advisor: Tobias Rossmann


Flapping hovering flight and related oscillatory wing motion using small scale airfoils operating at low Reynolds numbers presents challenges to traditional aerodynamic analysis.  Using typical aerodynamic analysis, conventional airfoil lift calculations cannot explain insect flight, as the wings are not able to generate enough steady-state lift.  As such dynamic analysis and unsteady flow visualization are required to understand insect flight mechanics.

Previous studies have presented two main methods of achieving hovering flight: non-interference and clap-and-fling hovering flight.  Both methods rely on oscillatory wing motion for lift generation, taking advantage of complex wing-wake interactions enabled by shed vortices.  The main difference between the two hovering methods is the utility of wing-wing interactions in the clap-and-fling mechanism.  This method employs a wing collision at the top of the upstroke (i.e. -the clap), generating an additional shed vortex that is scooped up on the downstroke to generate additional lift (i.e.- the fling).

This research project will analyze experimentally both non-interference and clap-and-fling hovering flight through use of a designed mechanical flapping mechanism which simulates the wing motion of insect flight, the Lafayette College Wind Tunnel, and high-speed flow visualization.  Additional force measurements will be made along the wings to allow comparison between instantaneous aerodynamic forces and flow visualization of the produced wakes.  The goal of this thesis is to relate the method of lift generation with wing geometry and better understand the aerodynamic and biological motivators behind these two different flapping methods.

Delainey Mack

About Delainey Mack

Delainey Mack, a senior mechanical engineering at Lafayette College, is an undergraduate research student in the Laboratory for Undergraduate Combustion and Hypersonics (LAUNCH). LAUNCH research studies low-speed and high-speed flows, with applications in propulsion, airfoil dynamics, wake-cortex interactions, and the small-scale fluid interactions important to aviation.  The lab contains the Lafayette College Wind Tunnel, a low-speed wind tunnel used for both flow visualization and Particle Image Velocimetry experiments.  Outside of research, Delainey is involved in TBP, the Tae Kwon Do team, Dance Company, International Orientation, and hold three jobs on campus.  Following graduation, Delainey will be attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to pursue a PhD in Aerospace Engineering.