Research Article

Experiments in Fluids

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 749-763

First online:

PIV-based investigations of animal flight

  • Geoffrey R. SpeddingAffiliated withDepartment of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Southern CaliforniaDepartment of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, University of Pretoria Email author 
  • , Anders HedenströmAffiliated withDepartment of Theoretical Ecology, Lund University

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An overview is presented of the principles of estimation of fluid forces exerted upon solid bodies, based upon whole-field velocity measurements such as provided by PIV. The focus will be on the range of length and velocity scales characterised by the flight of large insects, birds, bats and small unmanned air vehicles, so that while viscous terms in the Navier–Stokes equations can many times be ignored in the quantitative analysis, understanding and measuring boundary-layer flows, separation and instability will ultimately be critical to predicting and controlling the fluid motions. When properly applied, PIV methods can make accurate estimates of time-averaged and unsteady forces, although even ostensibly simple cases with uncomplicated geometries can prove challenging in detail. Most PIV-based force estimates are embedded in some analytical model of the fluid–structure interaction, and examples of these with varying degrees of complexity are given. In any event, the performance and accuracy of the PIV method in use must be well understood as part of both the overall uncertainty analysis and the initial experimental design.