Flapping and pitching: the aerodynamics of birds

Flying has always been an attractive dilemma for humanity and also Aristotle and Leonardo, among the others, attempted to explain the aerodynamics of birds.

With respect to modern aircrafts, whose aerodynamics is well known, the flight mechanism of birds is quite different. For example in the model of rigid wing the aircraft wing is at rest in the reference frame of the aircraft, while the aerodynamics of birds is characterized by significant wing deflections and unsteadiness. Furthermore, in the case of aircrafts, thrust and lift are decoupled being the lift given by the wing, and the thrust provided by the engines. Conversely in the birds’ aerodynamics the wings are responsible of thrust and lift at the same time.

The main objective of the present project is to investigate closer the generation of lift and thrust due to the flapping and pitching motion of the wing. Direct Navier-Stokes simulations will be carried out with the spectral element solver Nek5000. Good knowledge of Fluid Mechanics is required.

Supervisor: Francesco Viola