Parameter study of simplified dragonfly airfoil geometry at Reynolds number of 6000

David Elie Levy, Avraham Seifert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aerodynamic study of a simplified Dragonfly airfoil in gliding flight at Reynolds numbers below 10,000 is motivated by both pure scientific interest and technological applications. At these Reynolds numbers, the natural insect flight could provide inspiration for technology development of Micro UAV's and more. Insect wings are typically characterized by corrugated airfoils. The present study follows a fundamental flow physics study (Levy and Seifert, 2009), that revealed the importance of flow separation from the first corrugation, the roll-up of the separated shear layer to discrete vortices and their role in promoting flow reattachment to the aft arc, as the leading mechanism enabling high-lift, low drag performance of the Dragonfly gliding flight. This paper describes the effect of systematic airfoil geometry variations on the aerodynamic properties of a simplified Dragonfly airfoil at Reynolds number of 6000.The parameter study includes a detailed analysis of small variations of the nominal geometry, such as corrugation placement or height, rear arc and trailing edge shape.Numerical simulations using the 2D laminar Navier-Stokes equations revealed that the flow accelerating over the first corrugation slope is followed by an unsteady pressure recovery, combined with vortex shedding. The latter allows the reattachment of the flow over the rear arc. Also, the drag values are directly linked to the vortices' magnitude. This parametric study shows that geometric variations which reduce the vortices' amplitude, as reduction of the rear cavity depth or the reduction of the rear arc and trailing edge curvature, will reduce the drag values. Other changes will extend the flow reattachment over the rear arc for a larger mean lift coefficients range; such as the negative deflection of the forward flat plate. These changes consequently reduce the drag values at higher mean lift coefficients.The detailed geometry study enabled the definition of a corrugated airfoil geometry with enhanced aerodynamic properties, such as range and endurance factors, as compared to the nominal airfoil studied in the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-702
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Aerodynamics
  • Biological fluid mechanics
  • Insect flight
  • Low Reynolds numbers


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