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Modeling the Bat Wing

If it worked for Bruce Wayne, why not engineering professors? Researchers at Virginia Tech have taken fruit bat wing measurements to create a computer representation of wing motion and airflow that they hope to use for developing robotic vehicles that fly in a similar fashion.

This is the time history of coherent vortex formation around the bat wing. Bottom plot shows lift and thrust coefficient variation for a flapping cycle over normalized time. Image: Virginia Tech

The study was published in the journal Physics of Fluids. The team found that bats dynamically change their wing shape and size during flapping to maximize force. The surface area of the wings increased by nearly 30% on the downward stroke, and then decreased by 30% on the upward stroke to reduce resistance. This creates coefficients of force that are two to three times larger than the static wings on airplanes.

“We’d also like to explore other bat wing motions, such as a bat in level flight or a bat trying to maneuver quickly to answer questions, including: What are the differences in wing motion and how do they translate to air movement and forces that the bat generates? And finally, how can we use this knowledge to control the flight of an autonomous flying vehicle?” said Danesh Tafti, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of the High Performance Computational Fluid Thermal Science and Engineering Lab at Virginia Tech.

Check out the video below to see how Brown University researchers are also uncovering the flight secrets of bats.

Source: Virginia Tech

About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.