State-space aerodynamic model reveals high force control authority and predictability in flapping flight

Yagiz E. Bayiz, Bo Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Flying animals resort to fast, large-degree-of-freedom motion of flapping wings, a key feature that distinguishes them from rotary or fixed-winged robotic fliers with limited motion of aerodynamic surfaces. However, flapping-wing aerodynamics are characterized by highly unsteady and three-dimensional flows difficult to model or control, and accurate aerodynamic force predictions often rely on expensive computational or experimental methods. Here, we developed a computationally efficient and data-driven state-space model to dynamically map wing kinematics to aerodynamic forces/moments. This model was trained and tested with a total of 548 different flapping-wing motions and surpassed the accuracy and generality of the existing quasi-steady models. This model used 12 states to capture the unsteady and nonlinear fluid effects pertinent to force generation without explicit information of fluid flows. We also provided a comprehensive assessment of the control authority of key wing kinematic variables and found that instantaneous aerodynamic forces/moments were largely predictable by the wing motion history within a half-stroke cycle. Furthermore, the angle of attack, normal acceleration and pitching motion had the strongest effects on the aerodynamic force/moment generation. Our results show that flapping flight inherently offers high force control authority and predictability, which can be key to developing agile and stable aerial fliers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20210222
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number181
StatePublished - Aug 4 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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