Numerical Simulations of Insect Flight in Heavy Turbulence

Thomas Engels, Ph.D., TU Berlin / École Normale Supérieure Paris

More information: http://aifit.cfd.tu-berlin.de

12 Jan 2017, 17:00–18:30; Location: S4|10-1

The aerodynamics of flying insects is a field of research currently receiving much attention from a broad, interdisciplinary community of researchers. Their motivation ranges from the design of bio-inspired robots to fundamental questions in biology and fluid mechanics. Insects are known to produce a surprising amount of force, using comparatively small wings without aerodynamic profile, by exploiting a vortex system formed in every stroke at the leading edge of their wings. Using high-resolution numerical simulations of a tethered model bumblebee in forward flight, we investigate whether environmental turbulence, ubiquitous in natural habitats, can destroy this vortex system crucial to the animals flight performance. Our numerical bumblebee is a prototype for medium sized insects (Reynolds number 2000), and first considered in laminar flow. Subsequently, we superimpose homogeneous isotropic turbulent fluctuations to the uniform inflow. Despite tremendous variation in turbulence intensity, between 17% and 99% with respect to the mean flow, we do not find significant changes in cycle-averaged aerodynamic forces, moments, or flight power when averaged over realizations, compared to laminar inflow conditions. The variance of aerodynamic measures, however, significantly increases with increasing turbulence intensity, which may explain flight instabilities observed in freely flying bees.

Category: CE Seminar


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