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UNDERSTANDING BIRD’S FLIGHT, USING A 3-D BEM METHOD AND A TIME STEPPING ALGORITHM.

Gerasimos Politis1 and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis2

1)Associate Professor, Department of Ship and Marine Hydrodynamics, School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Heroon Politechniou 9, Zografos, Athens, Greece, e-mail: polit@central.ntua.gr 2) Naval Architect and Marine Engineer, PHD candidate, School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Heroon Politechniou 9, Zografos, Athens, Greece, e-mail: vtsars@central.ntua.gr

Keywords: Bird flight, Biomimetics, Flapping foil propulsion; Boundary element method; Unsteady wake rollup. Abstract. Bird flight is a physical paradigm of how a fully unsteady flow problem, assisted by properly adjusted biofeedback system, can lead to very well controlled flight scenarios ranging from nearly constant speed advancement to complex flight maneuvers. To understand the flow physics of such systems, the problem of flow around a passively (i.e. controlled by the user) flexible wing performing unsteady motions while travelling with a given velocity in an infinitely extended fluid, is formulated and solved using a potential based 3D BEM. Dynamic evolution of unsteady trailing vortex sheets emanating from wing trailing edges is calculated by applying the kinematic and dynamic boundary conditions as part of a time stepping algorithm used for the solution of the unsteady problem. Trailing vortex sheet intensity is calculated by applying at each time step a nonlinear pressure type Kutta condition at wing trailing edges. With the proper filtering of induced velocities which introduces artificial viscosity to our model, beautiful roll-up patterns emerge, indicating the main vortex structures, by which bird’s wings in unsteady motion, interact by themselves and develop forces. After the method for simulation of the geometry for bird wings and their evolution in time is described, we proceed to some systematic calculations/simulations for a bird wing flying in a number of preselected regimes with varying geometries, loadings and flying conditions. We show that unsteady bird fly can be comprehended by tracing a number of well structured unsteadily moving ring vortices created in the wake of the moving bird. We present some results showing the 3-D topology of this wake vortex pattern and how this is affected by the wing geometry, loading and flying parameters. Some quantitative results are also presented for the developed lift and induced drag for such systems.

INTRODUCTION Throughout history, man has always sought to fly like birds. Many believe that we have attained such an achievement, but we are not there yet. While aeronautical technology has advanced rapidly over the past 100 years, nature's flying machines, which have evolved over 150 million years, are still impressive. A simple comparison can astonish anyone. Humans move at top speeds of 3-4 body lengths per second, a race horse runs approximately 7 body lengths per second, and the fastest terrestrial animal, a cheetah, accomplishes 18 body lengths per second. A supersonic aircraft such as the SR 71 Blackbird travelling near Mach 3 covers about 32 body lengths per second. Yet a common pigeon frequently attains speeds of 90 kph; this converts to 75 body lengths per second. A European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is capable of flying at 120 and various species of Swifts over 140 body lengths per second. The roll rate of highly aerobatic aircraft (e.g., A-4 Skyhawk) is said to be approximately 720 degrees per second, while a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustics) has a roll rate in excess of 5000 degrees per second. The maximum positive G-forces permitted in most general aviation aircraft is 4-5Gs and select military aircraft withstand 8-10Gs. However, many

for the simulation of 3D unsteady incompressible non-viscous flow around system of bodies.65.7. in their attempts to uncover wake patterns and through them the main mechanisms of birds flight. Since Leonadro DaVinci.4. or the consumed power (termed DHP: delivered horse power) cannot be applied. Numerical investigations were made by biologists[9.9. inherently present in such type of problems.32]. The first theoretical exploration of the problem can be attributed to Lighthill [18] and first modern attempts to build ornithopters to K Herzog [14].10. Two types of bodies are allowed: (a) non-lifting bodies and (b) lifting bodies. allowing the scientist to understand the mechanisms for thrust production in complex unsteady propulsion problems.27. In this paper.125. normal to body.10.22. as well as the books by D. Three main types of Kutta conditions can be applied by the user for the determination of the shed vorticity from lifting bodies: (a) A linear Morino condition. engineers used viscous and potential codes [31. which provided good insight. Saffman (1992). more than fifty patents and several books. Finally we present results of calculation of flows for three different cases of birds’ flight and indicate how the tracking of the free shear layer. On the other hand. Attempts to understand bird flight and propulsion and simulate it have started very early in the history of science. As a result the calculation of EHP and DHP for a flexible bird wing is based on the following alternative methodology: Let A a point belonging to the surface S of a body (bird wing) of our system. (b) a pressure type (nonlinear) condition and (c) a mixed condition (Morino at tip region – pressure type in the remaining part of trailing edge).28.63.40].6. but no systematic investigation of effects.109. Rozhdestvensky [11].3. G. However. hundreds of times each day) positive G-forces in excess of 10Gs and up to 14Gs.55] in simulating simplified motions.40. after presenting briefly the unsteady BEM. Alexander [16].79] but it is usually restricted to simpler types of motion where a man-made mechanism can be constructed.51. A detailed description of the basic equations of the method and of the corresponding numerical implementation can be found in[81].E. additional reference will be given in the reference list.24. Aeroelastic effects were also investigated [].} and mainly experiments were made towards construction of MAVs (micro air vehicles)[2.30].5. a free shear layer is automatically generated by the code and its time evolution is determined by applying the Helmholtz vortex theorems and a special filtering technique. Shyy et Al [13] M. Taylor et Al [15]. Triantafyllou et. who used viscous commercial codes and conducted experiments for specific cases. By this technique the main structure of large scale thrust producing vortices becomes viewable. denoted by P and viscous forces. Let F denote the total force exerted by the fluid to the body at A.55.103. several numerical investigations {31. We shall now give in some detail the equations used for the determination of forces and efficiency for the case of bird wings. The bodies can be rigid or flexible and can move (or deform) independently in a prescribed (determined by the user) manner.22. we identify the main issues of bird flight and propose a solution to the problem of generating unsteady moving BEM grids which simulate the geometry and kinematics of a real birds’ wing in motion.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis birds have been calculated to routinely experience (i.12. little research was done in theoretical level[18.68.60. denoted by D .34.e. Since the present paper aims to identify the main issues of bird flight and provide preliminary results from a new tool for understanding the review part will be limited to the most important and most recent developments in the area of bird flight alone. In this case the existence of flexibility does not allow to define a global translational or rotational velocity for each body of our system. hundreds more by biologists’. In the same paper the method is validated through comparison with steady and unsteady experimental results for the case of a propeller and a flapping foil system. The existing literature numbers more than 270 papers from engineers. Then. inherently present in our formulation. Extender reviews can be found in the review papers of W. Thus: F P D (1) . can inform us about a very well structured system of ring vortices which explains the birds’ flight mechanism as an application of conservation of the linear momentum principle. The core of the code is a time stepping algorithm and a Morino formulation of the corresponding free BVP for each time step. Experimentalists. Politis [80.. During the period 2002-2008 a BEM computer code has been developed. This force is a sum of pressure forces. For the latter case the user has to determine the line of flow separation in the surface of each lifting body. tangential to body. Al [12] and Kirill V. A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE BEM. during execution. Since then. Wei Shyy Et al [17]. numerous designs and analyses have been recorded. which introduces artificial viscosity in our model and thus allows suppression of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. Bilinear quadrilateral elements are used to describe body and shear layer geometry at time t. Thus the usual formulas for determination of the useful power of the system (termed EHP: effective horse power).81]. have also made serious progress [7.

Simpler wing geometries are usually present in insects. Another case of interest to bird’s fly. As a result. The grasshopper wing has not joints and is mainly stiff.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis Viscous forces are entered in our code in the form of simple surface drag coefficient which is a function of a body Reynolds number. As seen in the picture below taken from biology clipart. Additionally. For example a nearly elliptical wing is present in the case of a grasshopper. the wing outline and all other geometric/motion details are time dependent and in general allow for a large variety of alternatives. a multitude of flying creature wings can be met with different complexities. allowing span wise and chord wise . A schematic view of a bird in flight (biology clipart) This geometric complexibility. is dependent from the creature operational objectives such as the ability of sucesfull hanting. In this case the wake of the former bird affects the later and ther are formations of optimum efficiency as a system. Figure 1. Take d along this direction. Notice that during bird’s fly. At those points DHP(t ) becomes eventually small (smaller than EHP(t ) ) giving thus rise to instantaneous efficiencies greater than one. PHENOMENOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING GEOMETRY AND MOTION OF BIRD FLIGHT. the motion of a bird in flight is asymmetrical. the ability to cope with their enemies or the peculiarities in the operational environment. which nature has introduced to the flying creatures by natural selection. Efficiencies for finite time flight intervals are calculated by: T EHP (t )dt T 0 T (5) DHP (t )dt 0 where T denotes the time interval. according to a well known vector identity: v (d v ) d (d v) d (2) v) d) The differential power done from the fluid to the body at A is given by: pow F v (F d )(d v ) F ((d (3) and the net power from a flexible body is given by: net _ pow S F v dS S (F d )(d v ) dS S F ((d v ) d ) dS (4) In bird’s fly there is always a preferable instantaneous direction in which the bird intends to move. Let also v denote the velocity of A with respect to an inertia reference frame. to be considered in a future paper. Then. Consider also a parallel vector field d with d a unit vector. there are instances where the bird wing absorbs power from the flow. In order to simulate the motion of a bird's wings. is when they fly in formations. Then the first term in the right hand side of equation (4) is the instantaneous EHP(t ) and the second term is the instantaneous DHP(t ) . advice has to be taken from biologist investigations. The ratio EHP(t ) / DHP(t ) defines the instantaneous efficiency.

For example we can . yet richly enough. Biologists have systematically investigated the anatomy of bird wings and arrange them in groups according to their characteristics. a section of the final wing surface has been constructed. Unfortunately (for the scientists) the more complex wing motions are the rule for the flying creatures. Each segment is connected to a ‘next’ and ‘previous’ one by a ‘start’ and ‘end’ joint respectively. our proposal is lent from the anatomy of the real wing that is we propose the use of a spine-rail combination. By superimposing to this plane a thickness distribution. the camber etc) can be time dependent. In many insects. can also be time dependent. From these investigations it is shown that there are species that employ a simpler wing outline and motion. X. Birds are almost always equipped with wings of more complex motion capabilities and have joints. Rails obtain their position on this normal plane by determining a ‘twist angle’ relative to an initial position. Birds’ wing camber and thickness distributions are lent from traditional 2-D data of the NACA family.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis deformations induced by the elastic properties of its construction. This wing motion ‘flexibility’ is intimately connected with its physical anatomy and the existence of a spinal column with a muscle system. (b) the rails (a number of lines tracing the camber line in the chord-wise direction) and (c) a thickness distribution which is superimposed on the spine-rail surface (otherwise termed the ‘reference wing surface’). defining their orientation in space with respect to a global XYZ coordinate system. The time dependent geometry of a birds’ wing can then be reproduced by defining the successive positions of the reference surface as well as the thickness distribution which. but also its geometric details (such as the wing outline. Twisting X-flapping Y-flapping Figure 2. Not only can the wing as a whole change its position with time. For example the wing of a hummingbird in nearly elliptic without joints and its motion can be described by a combination of a flapping and a twisting motion. figure 2. which is attached to each end joint in a plane normal to the instantaneous position of the spine segment. More specifically the ‘spine’ is discritized by a variable (user determined and bird dependenet) number of straight line spine segments of given length. The ‘rail’. of the two parts of the wing. A challenge for the scientist which attempts to numerically simulate the bird’s flight is the introduction of a minimal. is discritezed similarly by a number of straight line segments tracking the local camber distribution. the spine rotation around the X axis is termed Y-flapping while the spine rotation around the Y axis is termed the X-flapping. Instantaneous spine geometry can then be defined by giving the position of the starting node of the first segment and the two rotation angles for each (and all) segments. group of geometric and motion parameters to control the variations of the geometric and kinematic characteristics of a birds wing in flight. For example a seagull’s wing in simultaneous acceleration and climbing condition (high thrust and lift) presents a highly asymmetric wing motion with very strong wing shape variations with time. not necessarily equally spaced. Assuming the X axis to be along birds’ instantaneous velocity and the XY plane as the plane of instantaneous flight symmetry (we currently limit our investigation to cases where bird wings are moving with a XY transverse plane of symmetry). if necessary. Figure 2 shows schematically those notions. HANDLING BIRDS’ WING GEOMETRY AND MOTION Regarding simulation of geometry and kinematics of bird wings. wings are operating in tandem. the twist. allowing thus a balancing of developed aerodynamic forces. This is connected with the existence of a ‘joint’ in seagull’s wing. Thus the instantaneous position of a birds’ wing can be defined by: (a) a spine (a line tracing the wing in the span-wise direction). which is characterized by analytic descriptions with a minimum number of defining free parameters.Y flapping and twisting motions of a birds’ wing. which allows independent control by the birds’ brain.

e. XFph . YF denotes the Y flapping angle and TW denotes the twisting angle at the kth joint and K denotes the number of joints of the spine. Qph is the phase angle and Qm is the mean value of the motion defining variable Q(t ) and the common to all motions circular frequency. The interest of this simplified case has to do with the similarities it has with what a local observer. b) Its joint flapping and/or twisting motion can have its own phase angle and mean value. Irrespective of this. an interpolation scheme is needed in order to produce the Q(t ) ’s at all points of the spain. With the previous considerations in mind the motion of a birds’ wing is fully determined providing the: (a) X. We use a linear interpolation between the values of the various Q(t ) parameters between joints. then: (6) Q(t ) Qa sin( t Qph ) Qm where Qa is the amplitude. (TWa .K .K where XF denotes the X flapping angle. (c) The common circular frequency and (d) The paraller instantaneous bird velocity. NACA 4412). For a 2-D wing performing a harmonic heaving motion with amplitude h0 .TWph .K where MC denotes the maximum camber of the kth joint. moving attached to the birds’ wing surface. necessary to calculate a dence boundary element grid for the description of kinematics of the birds wing. ( a .K . The previous methodology is entirely free to produce the most general flight patterns met in nature.YFm )k YF 1. let Q(t ) denotes a motion defining parameter (for example a twist angle or a X.h U 2h0 (9) . Thus Q(t ) is a C 0 function with support the spine length. (b) Maximum camber motion (MCa .Y-flapping angle of the nth joint etc). a harmonic pitching motion with amplitude angle 0 and phase . we have applied the previous methodology with the following simplified assumptions: a) All joints perform harmonic flapping and twisting motions with a common (given) frequency.Y flapping and twisting angles as well the rail maximum camber changes with time. Since the Q(t ) ’s are given at the joints of the spine as a function of time. Thus. Thus a surface BEM grid with at least C 1 continuity is produced by our method. We can then add motion to our bird wing by assuming that the spine joint X. for the needs of the current paper.YFph . MC m )k 1.Y flapping and twisting motions of the spine joints in the form of the set (XFa .Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis assume a camber/thickness distribution similar to the NACA four digits family of sections (i. the instantaneous angle of attack a(t ) is a(t ) or in non-dimensional form: 0 sin(2 n t ) tan 1 ( h0 2 n cos(2 n t ) ) U (7) a(t ) 0 sin(2 n t ) tan 1( St cos(2 n t )) (8) where St denotes the Strouhal number defined by: St n h .TWm )k 1. Similarly the maximum camber on joint positions varies harmonically with the same frequency. XFm )k 1. and moving with parallel velocity U . MC ph . Before closing this section it is interesting to briefly discuss the motion of 2-D heaving and pitching foil in parallel flow. both at a frequency n( given by: / (2 )) . shows (strip theoretic approach). Notice that in the case of X or Y flapping a C 0 continuity on spine angles results in a C 1 continuity in spine position.

10 and 11 present an artistic addition which shows explicitly the shape and direction of such vortices. Figure 12 presents the calculated thrust and lift. St ) .. Four vortices are created in one period. The second case is an alteration of the first. Similarly a NACA 0012 section is used in all cases considered. This type of asymmetry produces an additional amount of lift in level flight. St ) determines fully the a(t ) and consequently the maximum angle of attack for the 2-D case. Wing geometry Case 1 (hummingbird in vertical hover) Figures 4. In the case considered all the vortices have the same intensity and their vertical projection sums to zero in one period. by which its average value is zero. For the non-experienced observer figures 9. )) at the spanwise section located at 70% of semi-span. By tracking the shear layer deformation it is possible to identify regions where well structured and intensive ring vortices evolve. t (0. The first is a motion where the wing flaps around the Xaxis and twists harmonically. . with the difference that the flapping around X-axis has a mean value larger than zero. and two other during downstroke. it is common to characterize an unsteady flight condition for a 2-D airfoil by the non-dimensional variables ( 0 . Y Z X Figure 3. Finally the mean (one period) efficiency of the flapping wing for this case is 63%.7 and 8 show the 3-D pattern of the shear layer emanating from the wing trailing edge at various perspectives.. two during upstroke. Since this is related to the maximum attainable lift as well as phenomena like viscous separation and stall. 5 show the time evolution of the wing geometry over one period.15 and amax 10 ( amax max(a(t ). From the calculated unsteady thrust it is observed that there is a substantial average thrust. The third case is a motion with strong deformations due to wing joints that simulates the motion of seagull’s wings when accelerating and climbing at the same time (high thrust and lift). CASES SIMULATED We decide to investigate three different modes of flight. This is the simplest case of motion of a birds’ wing and can be considered to resemble the motion of a hummingbird. This flight is realistic only when applied to a bird in entirely vertical hover. with axis inclined downward. . Such a motion is employed by most birds when they maintain speed in steady flight (level flight).Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis From relation (8) we observe that the combination ( 0 . Figures 6. In level flights the bird needs both thrust and lift which is the subject of the next case. From those figures we observe that in the considered flight a continues strip of ring vortices is generated with axis inclined with respect to the axis of bird parallel movement. The motion is characterized by a T strouhal number: St 0. The wing outline is the same for all cases for reasons of comparison figure 3. . In the sequel we shall use the previous non-dimensional variables based on a single birds’ wing section (for example in the first two cases we use the section at 70% of the birds wing semi-span) although it is clear that only a crude relation between the flow variables of the 3-D flow case with the 2-D case exists. with axis inclined upward. Notice the symmetry of the lift.

8. Artistic addition of vortex rings and corresponding flow jets.2 0 -0. Figures 9.4 0. 0. Colour represents dipole intensity.10. Instantaneous thrust and lift as a function of time. Shear layer dynamics.4 its Figure 12. Sucessive wing positions over one period Figures 6.2 Thrust Lift 50 100 150 200 250 300 -0.5. Forces .11.7.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis Figures 4.

Finally the mean (one period) efficiency of the flapping wing for this case is 60%. Artistic addition of vortex rings and corresponding flow jets. 14 show the time evolution of the wing geometry over one period. Notice the assymmetry of the lift. Four vortices are created in one period.16 and 17 show the 3-D pattern of the shear layer emanating from the wing trailing edge at various perspectives. This introduces an asymmetry to the upstroke with respect to the down stroke motion of the wing which results in the development of a lift force usefull for a level flight. This flight is realistic for a level flight.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis Case 2 (hummingbird maintaining steady level flight) The next case considered is similar to the first in all aspects. From the calculated unsteady thrust it is observed that there is a substantial average thrust. the vortices have not the same intensity and their vertical projection does not sum up to zero in one period. Sucessive wing positions over one period Figures 15. Figures 13. . Figures 18. by which its average value is different from zero. Shear layer dynamics.19. Thus a mean lift is obtained. with the exception of introducing a mean value in the Y-flapping angle. In oposition to the the previous case. Figures 13. Figures 15. 19 and 20 present an artistic addition which shows explicitly the shape and direction of created ring vortices.17. Figure 21 presents the calculated thrust and lift.15 and amax 10 at the spanwise section located at 70% of semi-span. two of them with axis inclined upward and two other with axis inclined downward.20. Colour represents dipole intensity.14.16. Again St 0. Figures 18. From those figures we observe that the considered flight is maintained by a continues creation of ring vortices with inclined axis with respect to the axis of bird parallel movement. where the bird needs both thrust and lift.

Figures 22. More specifically the inner part of the wing breaks harmonically with amplitude 35o and mean value -25o while the phase lapse between breaking and flapping is 90o . Notice the effect of wing breaking in the instantaneous forces .4 0. Case 3 (seagull’s wings in highly deformed motion) The next case considered is entirely different from the previous two cases.6 300 its Figure 21.2 0 -0. Figure 32 presents the calculated thrust and lift. Figures 26.27. From those figures we observe that the considered flight is again characterized by a creation of ring vortices with inclined axis with respect to the axis of bird parallel movement. Notice that.30 and 31 show the 3-D pattern of the shear layer emanating from the wing trailing edge at various perspectives. Instantaneous thrust and lift as a function of time. the effect of which can be seen in the time evolution of shear layer geometry. This leads to breaking the wing during upstroke and extending it during downstroke.4 and amax 12 at the spanwise section located at 55% of semi-span.21N while the mean lift is 0.2 -0. There is also a ground effect between the wings during upstroke. 28 and 30 present an artistic addition which shows explicitly the shape and direction of created ring vortices.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis 0. The mean thrust is 0. lower than that of the cases considered previously.28.19N and the mean propulsive efficiency is 46%. 23. Sucessive wing positions over one period – Upstroke Forces . More specifically figures 26. which results in both serious lift and thrust forces.4 Thrust Lift 0 100 200 -0. 24 and 25 show the time evolution of the wing geometry over one period for the upstroke and the downstroke movements respectively.23. the topology and number of vortices created by this flight in one period is different from that observed in the previous cases.29. Figures 22. For this case St 0.6 0.

Top view . Shear layer dynamics.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis Figures 24.Side view Figures 28. Sucessive wing positions over one period .Downstroke Figures 26. 25.29. Shear layer dynamics. 27. Colour represents dipole intensity .

19N and the mean propulsive efficiency is 46%. Instantaneous thrust and lift as a function of time.5 .21N while the mean lift is 0.Gerasimos Politis and Vassileios Tsarsitalidis Figures 30.5 Thrust Lift 2 1 0.5 0 50 100 150 200 its Figures 32. Shear layer dynamics. there is also a ground effect between the wings during upstroke.5 0 -0. In this paper the problem of simulating the birds’ wing geometry and kinematics has been attacked and a solution has been proposed using the spine-rail concept. 3 2. The mean thrust is 0. The method has been applied to three realistic bird flight cases and the dynamics of the free shear layers and the unsteady forces have been calculated. but more than acceptable. From the calculated shear layer patterns it is shown that in all cases bird dynamics is maintained by considering the conservation of linear momentum with a number of strong well formed ring vortices (and corresponding jet flows) with proper directions with respect to the instantaneous axis of bird flight. 31. Perspective view Note that. A numerical method has then been developed based on this approach capable of producing unsteady BEM grids simulating bird wings in various flight regimes. except for the big difference in position and arrangement of vortex rings. From the preliminary investigation it is clear that the determination of the proper range of the parameters controlling birds’ flight with best efficiency and or maneuvering characteristics should be a difficult subject for further research for a biomemetic system designer. the effect of which can be seen in the time evolution of results. CONCLUSIONS: Bird flight is a very complex phenomenon much more difficult than that of fish swimming. as the lift is also very high. Forces 1. lower than cases before.

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