Scientists base concept for propulsion on how flies use natural resonance


Research into the possible construction of a flapping insect-wing micro air vehicle (MAV) propulsion system that exploits electromechanical resonance will begin this October at the UK universities of Bristol and Cranfield.

Insect-like MAVs are of interest for reconnoitring confined spaces because they would be small and highly manoeuvrable. Flies – the researchers’ model insect – fly by plunging and pitching their wings through large angles, while sweeping them backwards and forwards.


This method allows high manoeuvrability without control surfaces. Insects also use natural resonance oscillations to enhance their wing action. This will be explored along with the feasibility of an insect-like flapping wing system. The controllable propulsion mechanism will be designed to resonate at a specific frequency to aid the flapping motion. “There will be a small actuator to modulate the oscillation to change the [flight] kinematics while the wings are flapping,” says Rafal Zbikowski, power and sensors principal research officer at Cranfield Shrivenham campus aerospace department.


The propulsion mechanism will also induce enough energy into the flapping motion to sustain the resonance. The controllable demonstrator for insect-like flapping-wing micro air vehicles project will run until September 2008.

In total the two participating universities have been given £526,000 ($959,000) by the UK Engineering Physical Sciences and Research Council.


Source: Flight International