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Published August 2005 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

The aerodynamic effects of wing–wing interaction in flapping insect wings


We employed a dynamically scaled mechanical model of the small fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster (Reynolds number 100–200) to investigate force enhancement due to contralateral wing interactions during stroke reversal (the 'clap-and-fling'). The results suggest that lift enhancement during clap-and-fling requires an angular separation between the two wings of no more than 10–12°. Within the limitations of the robotic apparatus, the clap-and-fling augmented total lift production by up to 17%, but depended strongly on stroke kinematics. The time course of the interaction between the wings was quite complex. For example, wing interaction attenuated total force during the initial part of the wing clap, but slightly enhanced force at the end of the clap phase. We measured two temporally transient peaks of both lift and drag enhancement during the fling phase: a prominent peak during the initial phase of the fling motion, which accounts for most of the benefit in lift production, and a smaller peak of force enhancement at the end fling when the wings started to move apart. A detailed digital particle image velocimetry (DPIV) analysis during clap-and-fling showed that the most obvious effect of the bilateral 'image' wing on flow occurs during the early phase of the fling, due to a strong fluid influx between the wings as they separate. The DPIV analysis revealed, moreover, that circulation induced by a leading edge vortex (LEV) during the early fling phase was smaller than predicted by inviscid two-dimensional analytical models, whereas circulation of LEV nearly matched the predictions of Weis-Fogh's inviscid model at late fling phase. In addition, the presence of the image wing presumably causes subtle modifications in both the wake capture and viscous forces. Collectively, these effects explain some of the changes in total force and lift production during the fling. Quite surprisingly, the effect of clap-and-fling is not restricted to the dorsal part of the stroke cycle but extends to the beginning of upstroke, suggesting that the presence of the image wing distorts the gross wake structure throughout the stroke cycle.

Additional Information

© 2005 The Company of Biologists. Accepted 8 June 2005. We would like to acknowledge Don Pick for his help with DPIV imaging. This work was funded by NSF (IBN-0217229) and Packard Foundation grants to M.H.D., DFG grant Le 905/4-1 and German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) grant Biofuture 0311885 to F.O.L.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023