We’ve been soaring like eagles in airplanes for a long time now, but up until this point humans haven’t been able to recreate one aspect of avian flight: designing aircraft with wings that flap. Researchers at the National Institute of Aerospace may have solved that problem using advancements in simulation and computer modeling to create unmanned aircraft with flappable wings.
University of Maryland professor James Hubbard is leading the team, which has already created flying models that have been tested by the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Fixed-wing craft are easier to design, but bird wings are more effective in flight and provide advantages in handling and maneuverability.
“Birds have evolved for a reason, and this bio-inspired flight design which mimics birds will allow us to have the same advantages they have with respect to handling, which you can’t get with fixed flight,” said Doug Stanley, president of the NIA, in an interview with the Daily Press. “This project is really making progress over state-of-the art in the aerodynamic field. These unmanned aerial vehicles are extremely difficult to model, but by numerically analyzing the design, it’s possible to model multiple configurations rapidly.”