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Design and comparison of tails for bird-scaleflapping-wing robots

M.M. Guzmán; C. Ruiz Páez; F. J. Maldonado; R. Zufferey; J. Tormo-Barbero; J.Á Acosta; A. Ollero

Flapping-wing robots (so-called ornithopters) are a promising type of platform to perform efficient winged flight and interaction with the environment. However, the control of such vehicles is challenging due to their under-actuated morphology to meet lightweight requirements. Consequently, the flight control of flapping-wing robots is predominantly handled by the tail.
Most ornithopters feature a tail with two degrees of freedom but the configuration choice is often arbitrary and without indepth study. In this paper, we propose a thorough analysis of the design and in-flight performance for the three tails. Their design and manufacturing methods are presented, with an emphasis on low weight, which is critical in ornithopters. The aerodynamics of the tails is analyzed through CFD simulations and their performance compared experimentally. The advantages and performance metrics of each configuration are discussed based on flight data. Two types of 3D flight tests were carried out: aggressive heading maneuvers and level turns. The results show that an inverted V-tail outperforms the others regarding maneuverability and stability. From the three configurations, only the inverted V-Tail can perform an aggressive stable banked level turn with a radius of 3.7 m at a turning rate of 1.6 rad/s. This research work describes the impact of the tail configuration choice on the performance of bird-scale flapping-wing robots.

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