Hovering flies generate exceptionally high lift, because their wings generate a stable leading edge vortex. Micro flying robots with a similar wing design can generate similar high lift by either flapping or spinning their wings. While it requires less power to spin a wing, the overall efficiency depends also on the actuator system driving the wing. Here, we present the first holistic analysis to calculate how long a fly-inspired micro robot can hover with flapping versus spinning wings across scales. We integrate aerodynamic data with data-driven scaling laws for actuator, electronics and mechanism performance from fruit fly to hummingbird scales. Our analysis finds that spinning wings driven by rotary actuators are superior for robots with wingspans similar to hummingbirds, yet flapping wings driven by oscillatory actuators are superior at fruit fly scale. This crossover is driven by the reduction in performance of rotary compared with oscillatory actuators at smaller scale. Our calculations emphasize that a systems-level analysis is essential for trading-off flapping versus spinning wings for micro flying robots.
- Received September 8, 2016.
- Accepted September 9, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.