On August 6-10, 2012, a team from University of Maryland (UMD) / National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) led by graduate student Aimy Wissa, traveled to Wright Patterson Air Force Base to conduct flight test of a custom built ornithopter under the funding provided by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Program Manager Dr. David Stargel. The ornithopter, which is an unmanned aerial vehicle that operates using flapping wing technology (like a bird), was designed and built by the UMD/NIA Morpheus Laboratory under the mentorship of the laboratory?s Director, UMD Langley Distinguished Professor James Hubbard. The flight test was logistically and technically supported by both AFOSR and Pennsylvania State University personnel, and conducted within the Air Force Research Lab?s Indoor Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) laboratory ? the largest Vicon motion capture system lab in the United States and perhaps the world.
The Morpheus Lab?s ornithopter, named Lilienthal, or ?Lili? for short, was equipped with 53 reflective markers, which were necessary for the MAV lab?s 60 Vicon cameras to document a thorough record of Lili?s in flight wing kinematics. Lili set a new precedent as being the largest flapping wing vehicle to fly in the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) MAV lab.
According to Wissa: ?The goal of the tests was to improve flight performance using a novel passive wing morphing technique developed by the Morpheus Lab and the Engineering Design and Optimization Group (EDOG) at Penn State.? Morphing was achieved using a compliant structure, which mimics the function of an avian wrist. The compliant mechanism could save up to 45% of the power consumption of the vehicle thus proving beneficial for the ornithopter?s range, endurance, and payload metrics.?
UAV?s such as ornithopters are multi-mission platforms and have both civilian and defense applications. They are useful for surveillance, reconnaissance, and in some instances recovery. Beyond the theater of war, they may be employed to fight wildfires, conduct search and rescue, and collect atmospheric data.
October 10, 2012