Research in Engineering and Aviation

Micro Aerial Vehicles: Are Two Wings Better than One?


Author(s): Bramesfeld, G., Malik, A.S.

Journal: AIAA Journal of Aircraft. (under review)


Typical missions of micro aerial vehicles include remote sensing tasks in confined spaces, which limit wingspans and restrict maneuvering. Under these conditions, loiter may be limited by reduced endurances brought about by the increased power needs that may accompany wingspan and turning radius restrictions. With regard to these restrictions, micro aerial vehicles should be optimized for maximum endurance by minimizing their power requirements. A theoretical study was therefore performed with the primary purpose to explore aircraft configurations that are more suitable for such constrained flight domains. The theoretical performance model used for this investigation is based on an advanced potential flow method that uses a table-lookup routine for profile drag prediction and section-lift adjustments for stall prediction. The model considers the increased lift needs during banked flight. Based on this flight performance model, parametric sweeps and multi-parameter gradient-based optimizations were applied to explore those micro aerial vehicle configurations that have minimum power requirements. The findings show that, based on specific wingspan and turning radius restrictions, biplane configurations have significantly lower power needs than do monoplanes. Indeed, the studies indicate that a biplane micro aerial vehicle potentially has 30% greater endurance than its single-wing counterpart.