A numerical analysis of Bumblebee propulsion: Rigid and flexible wing models

S. Tobing, J. Young, J. C.S. Lai

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Research on insect flight has been propelled by the growing interest in Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). Typical flapping wing MAVs fly in the low Reynolds number regime of 103-104, similar to that of insects. A critical review on the progress of research on the effects of aerodynamics/kinematics and aeroelasticity on flapping wing propulsion reveals the complexity of the subject. Multiple factors are intertwined and influence the propulsion and aerodynamic performance of a wing/insect, thus necessitating the study of a variety of insects and flapping techniques. Bumblebees are chosen as a case study due to their desirable characteristics for MAV applications. The purpose of this paper is to provide a numerical analysis of the propulsion of bumblebees. A numerical study is conducted to investigate the effects of wing-body interactions and flexibility on bumblebee propulsion. Firstly the insect wings and body are modelled as rigid bodies. Three computational models are created with only the wing-pair, the wing-pair with narrower gap between the wings, and both the wings and the body. The numerical results of the rigid model agree well with the experimental measurement, with a vortex-ring pattern observed during the downstroke. Comparison of the three computational models suggests that the vortex pattern does not result from having a wide thorax, where the wing-pair is separated by a large gap. The two-way FSI flexible bumblebee wing simulations show that flexible wings produce higher time-averaged lift and thrust than the rigid wing.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event31st AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: 24 Jun 201327 Jun 2013


Conference31st AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA


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