Comparison of power requirements: Flapping vs. fixed wing vehicles

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12 Scopus citations


The power required by flapping and fixed wing vehicles in level flight is determined and compared. Based on a new modelling approach, the effects of flapping on the induced drag in flapping wing vehicles are mathematically described. It is shown that flapping causes a significant increase in the induced drag when compared with a non-flapping, fixed wing vehicle. There are two effects for that induced drag increase; one is due to tilting of the lift vector caused by flapping the wings and the other results from changes in the amount of the lift vector during flapping. The induced drag increase yields a significant contribution to the power required by flapping wing vehicles. Furthermore, the power characteristics of fixed wing vehicles are dealt with. It is shown that, for this vehicle type, the propeller efficiency plays a major role. This is because there are considerable differences in the propeller efficiency when taking the size of vehicles into account. Comparing flapping and fixed wing vehicles, the conditions are shown where flapping wing vehicles have a lower power demand and where fixed wing vehicles are superior regarding the required power. There is a tendency such that fixed wing vehicles have an advantage in the case of larger size vehicles and flapping wing vehicles have an advantage in the case of smaller size ones.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Drag increase due to flapping
  • Flight performance
  • Power required
  • Propeller efficiency


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