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Joe Johnston; Ashok Gopalarathnam (Profiled Author: Ashok Gopalarathnam)
Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. 2012;7(3).Abstract
A flap mounted on the upper surface of an airfoil, called a lift-enhancing effector, has been shown in wind tunnel tests to have a similar function to a bird's covert feathers, which rise off the wing's surface in response to separated flows. The effector, fabricated from a thin Mylar sheet, is allowed to rotate freely about its leading edge. The tests were performed in the NCSU subsonic wind tunnel at a chord Reynolds number of 4 × 10 5. The maximum lift coefficient with the effector was the same as that for the clean airfoil, but was maintained over an angle-of-attack range from 12° to almost 20°, resulting in a very gentle stall behavior. To better understand the aerodynamics and to estimate the deployment angle of the free-moving effector, fixed-angle effectors fabricated out of stiff wood were also tested. A progressive increase in the stall angle of attack with increasing effector angle was observed, with diminishing returns beyond the effector angle of 60°. Drag tests on both the free-moving and fixed effectors showed a marked improvement in drag at high angles of attack. Oil flow visualization on the airfoil with and without the fixed-angle effectors proved that the effector causes the separation point to move aft on the airfoil, as compared to the clean airfoil. This is thought to be the main mechanism by which an effector improves both lift and drag. A comparison of the fixed-effector results with those from the free-effector tests shows that the free effector's deployment angle is between 30° and 45°. When operating at and beyond the clean airfoil's stall angle, the free effector automatically deploys to progressively higher angles with increasing angles of attack. This slows down the rapid upstream movement of the separation point and avoids the severe reduction in the lift coefficient and an increase in the drag coefficient that are seen on the clean airfoil at the onset of stall. Thus, the effector postpones the stall by 48° and makes the stall behavior more gentle. The benefits of using the effector could include care-free operations at high angles of attack during perching and maneuvering flight, especially in gusty conditions. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.
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