EXPERIMENTS IN FLUIDS, vol.55, no.9, 2014 (SCI-Expanded)
This paper investigates the formation and evolution of the unsteady three-dimensional wake structures generated by the flapping wings of the DelFly II micro aerial vehicle in forward flight configuration. Time-resolved stereoscopic particle image velocimetry (Stereo-PIV) measurements were carried out at several spanwise-aligned planes in the wake, so as to allow a reconstruction of the temporal development of the wake of the flapping wings throughout the complete flapping cycle. Simultaneous thrust-force measurements were performed to explore the relation between the wake formation and the aerodynamic force generation mechanisms. The three-dimensional wake configuration was subsequently reconstructed from the planar PIV measurements by two different approaches: (1) a spatiotemporal wake reconstruction obtained by convecting the time-resolved, three-component velocity field data of a single measurement plane with the free-stream velocity; (2) for selected phases in the flapping cycle a direct three-dimensional spatial wake reconstruction is interpolated from the data of the different measurement planes, using a Kriging regression technique. Comparing the results derived from both methods in terms of the behavior of the wake formations, their phase and orientation indicate that the spatiotemporal reconstruction method allows to characterize the general three-dimensional structure of the wake, but that the spatial reconstruction method can reveal more details due to higher streamwise resolution. Comparison of the wake reconstructions for different values of the reduced frequency allows assessing the impact of the flapping frequency on the formation and interaction characteristics of the vortical structures. For low values of the reduced frequency, it is observed that the vortex structure formation of instroke and outstroke is relatively independent of each other, but that increasing interaction occurs at higher reduced frequencies. It is further shown that there is a phase lag in the appearance of the structures for increasing flapping frequency, which is in correlation with the generation of the forces. Comparison of thrust generated during the instroke and the outstroke phases of the flapping motion in conjunction with the development of the wake structures indicates that wing-wing interaction at the start of outstroke (peel motion) becomes a dominant feature for reduced frequencies greater than 0.62.