Why Morphology Matters in Birds and UAV's: How Scale Affects Attitude Wind Sensitivity

Lawren Gamble, Daniel Inman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
340 Downloads (Pure)


Although natural fliers have been shown to morph their geometry to adapt to unfavorable wind loading, there exists heavy skepticism within the aviation community regarding the benefits and necessity of morphing aircraft technology. Here, we develop a vector derivation that characterizes how high winds affect the overall flight velocity and sideslip for both natural and manmade fliers. This derivation is formulated in such a way that only a single non-dimensional velocity parameter is needed to quantify the response. We show mathematically that in high winds, low-altitude fliers are more prone to substantial changes in the sideslip angle, struggle to maintain gliding velocity, and experience five times the peak sideslip sensitivity when compared to high-altitude fliers. In order to counteract these adverse changes, low-altitude fliers require a high degree of controllability which can be achieved through extreme morphological changes. The results presented here highlight the importance of integrating morphing concepts into future low-altitude aircraft designs and provide a formulation to help designers decide whether or not to pursue adaptive morphing technology based on a single readily determinable parameter.
Original languageEnglish
Article number203701
Number of pages5
JournalApplied Physics Letters
Issue number20
Early online date13 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2017


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