Flapping wing flight stability and control

Flapping wing flight stability and control

A biophysics department at a major university was investigating the mechanisms of flapping wing flight and tapped IJK Controls' experience in flight control and guidance systems.

Aerodynamic models predict that flapping wing flight of insects is open-loop unstable: that is, the natural dynamics without feedback control would not result in upright flight or hovering. However, insects are obviously capable of stable flight and even rejecting external disturbances. Insects are known to have microscope vibratory structures that resemble MEMs gyroscopes in principle. The hypothesis is then that these biological gyroscopes are used to actively stabilize flight - much like a flight controller. Indeed, insects are observed to be incapable of flight without these sensors. But many fundamental questions remained unresolved: What forms of flight control laws could the insects be using? Are the known neural delays or latencies consistent with the active stabilization hypothesis? What are the fundamental limitations to sensor performance, processing latency and flight stabilization performance?

IJK Controls provided the research team with a control theory framework for investigating flapping wing flight stability and control. Using the team’s aerodynamic model (fluid forces, kinematics and dynamics), IJK Controls developed a flight simulation that showed what stabilization performance could be achieved, even in the face of neural delay times. We contributed to a generic understanding of flapping wing flight stabilization in yaw, pitch and roll with a simple model rooted in control theory. Besides satisfying a research interest, the work is being explored and referenced by groups attempting to build small flapping wing aircraft.

We are able to capture and understand new flight dynamics and vehicle plans to design appropriate control schemes for navigation and guidance.

keywords: flight stability, flight control, flight guidance, time delay, modeling, simulation, research and development