Aerodynamic forces and flow fields of a two-dimensional hovering wing

Kim-Boon Lua, T. T. Lim, K. S. Yeo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This paper reports the results of an experimental investigation on a two-dimensional (2-D) wing undergoing symmetric simple harmonic flapping motion. The purpose of this investigation is to study how flapping frequency (or Reynolds number) and angular amplitude affect aerodynamic force generation and the associated flow field during flapping for Reynolds number (Re) ranging from 663 to 2652, and angular amplitudes (α A) of 30°, 45° and 60°. Our results support the findings of earlier studies that fluid inertia and leading edge vortices play dominant roles in the generation of aerodynamic forces. More importantly, time-resolved force coefficients during flapping are found to be more sensitive to changes in α A than in Re. In fact, a subtle change in α A may lead to considerable changes in the lift and drag coefficients, and there appears to be an optimal mean lift coefficient (C1) around α A = 45°, at least for the range of flow parameters considered here. This optimal condition coincides with the development a reverse Karman Vortex street in the wake, which has a higher jet stream than a vortex dipole at α A = 30°and a neutral wake structure at α A = 60°. Although Re has less effect on temporal force coefficients and the associated wake structures, increasing Re tends to equalize mean lift coefficients (and also mean drag coefficients) during downstroke and upstroke, thus suggesting an increasing symmetry in the mean force generation between these strokes. Although the current study deals with a 2-D hovering motion only, the unique force characteristics observed here, particularly their strong dependence on α A, may also occur in a three-dimensional hovering motion, and flying insects may well have taken advantage of these characteristics to help them to stay aloft and maneuver.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1065
Number of pages19
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2008


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