A novel piezoelectric-actuated wing system featuring dual actuators for increased wing control is presented and evaluated for its forward-flight characteristics via theoretical modeling and physical wind tunnel testing. Flapping wing aerial systems serve as a middle ground between the traditional fixed-wing and rotary systems. Flapping wing aerial systems exhibit high maneuverability and stability at low speeds (like rotary systems) while maintaining increased efficiency (like fixed-wing systems). Flapping wings also eliminate the necessity of dangerous fast-moving propellers and open the door to actuation mechanisms other than traditional motors. This research explores one of these alternatives: the piezoelectric bending actuator. Piezoelectric materials produce a mechanical strain when an electric charge is applied. With an applied sinusoidal voltage, cantilevered bending piezoelectric actuators create oscillatory motion at the free end that can be translated into wing movement much more directly than a rotational motor. This direct actuation eliminates the need for gears and provides a mechanism for reducing the system's weight. Furthermore, the simplified mechanism can improve robustness by removing contact surfaces that can become clogged or worn (e.g., using gears). While piezoelectric flapping-wing flight has many potential benefits, the combination has only been explored in insect-inspired hovering flight. This work explores the feasibility of larger, forward-flight systems to identify a framework for piezoelectrically-driven flapping-wing vehicles with wing-bending control. Theoretical and experimental analysis methods are presented to study piezoelectric flapping wing motion characteristics for lift and drag effects in flapping-wing aerial systems.
Mechanical Engineering (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)
O'Rourke, Quinn Andrew, "Efficacy of Flapping-wing Flight Via Dual Piezoelectric Actuation" (2022). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus