Experiments of Lift-Bending Response on a Slender UAV Wing Structure with Control Surface under Extreme Flow Turbulence


The aeroelastic response of lightweight low-speed aircrafts with slender wings under extreme flow turbulence intensity is not well understood. Experiments on a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a 3 m wingspan and aspect ratio of 13.6 were performed in a large open-return wind tunnel with extreme flow turbulence intensity of ≈10%. The wing bending displacement and the flow beneath the wing were measured by using laser-displacement sensors and tomographic particle image velocimetry (PIV) techniques, respectively. The unsteady lift produced by the wing was also measured by using a high-capacity load cell at an angle of attack of two degrees for three freestream velocities of 13.4 m/s, 17.9 m/s, and 26.8 m/s, representing the UAV’s stall speed, a speed approximately equal to the cruise speed, and a speed considerably higher than the cruise speed, respectively. It was found that a high flow turbulence intensity with large integral length scales relative to the wing chord plays a dominant role in the large unsteady lift and wing displacements measured. The power spectral density (PSD) of the wing structural vibration shows that flow shedding from the wing and the integral length scales have a significant impact on the overall power inherent in the bending vibration of the wing. Computations of the vorticity isosurfaces in the flow measurement volume surrounding the aileron reveal a striking observation: an aileron deflection of 10° becomes less effective in producing additional spanwise vorticity, which is proportional to circulation and lift at 26.8 m/s since the freestream already has elevated levels of vorticity. A paradigm shift in design is suggested for light aircraft structures with slender wings operating in highly turbulent flow, which is to employ multiple control surfaces in order to respond to this flow and mitigate large bending or torsion displacements and the probability of structural failure.


© 2024 by the authors. cc-by


aerodynamics, high turbulence intensity, particle image velocimetry, slender wing structures, structural dynamics


Ayele, W., Maldonado, V., & Parameswaran, S.. 2024. Experiments of Lift-Bending Response on a Slender UAV Wing Structure with Control Surface under Extreme Flow Turbulence. Aerospace, 11(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace11020131