“It Is Not Only Fine Feathers That Make Fine Birds”
Objective and Mission Statement
Team Icarus blends the sophistication of natural evolution with mechanical flight technology. Our team of dedicated engineering undergraduates is currently collaborating to create a unique ornithopter UAV. The vehicle will be able to very closely and naturally replicate all the motions inherent to real bird-flight, thanks to a sophisticated two-component wing design. A layer of artificial plumage will be applied in order to enhance the resemblance to a real bird. Moreover, a small, light, high-definition camera will be inserted in the beak in order to allow live-feed. Furthermore, a vibration dampening system will be installed around the camera in order to stabilize the viewed image, making the vehicle the perfect undisturbed observational tool. Its camouflaging abilities through natural appearance, and its extended battery life make ICARUS ideal for stealth surveillance and reconnaissance missions. However, the product’s high versatility allows for several additional possibilities in terms of potential applications. The final outcome will be a one-of-a-kind product built from scratch and presented at a college-wide competition and potentially several international competitions. Each component of this machine will be unique to only Team Icarus’ design. Parts will either be carefully machined by the team members possessing machine-shop certification, purchased from manufacturers, or 3-D printed based off of specific system requirements. We believe the design has the potential to be patented and is eventually suitable for limited production. Below are some CAD renderings of our current design:
Why are we raising the money?
Currently, progress is undermined by the lack of financial resources from our university. We believe in this product so much that we decided to create an initial budget from our personal funds, in order to confront the expenses related to preliminary testing and prototype construction. With this small supplement we have been able to take steps beyond the conceptualization phase. However, no more progress is achievable without appropriate funding. This is why we invite the KickStarter community to contribute to our efforts in order to make this innovative, state-of-the-art project a reality. Funding will be necessary to progress by building the first prototype. For the purposes of financial transparency, below is a list of the main components we plan to purchase once we receive funding:
- High-efficiency brushless DC electric motor
- Electronic Speed Control (ESC)
- Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery
- RPM sensor
- Optical sensor
- Radio Controller
- Low-weight, high-torque servos
- Weather-resistant skin coating made of Dacron
- High-definition camera equipped with stabilization systems and capable of live-feed
- High-quality, multidirectional carbon fiber rods
- Arduino ® Mega Microcontroller
- Polylactic acid (PLA) 3-D printed joints and gears
With the final design on the verge of finalization, team ICARUS is ready to build the first prototype. The video below represents the current project status. Keep in mind that many components are missing, due to financial shortcomings, therefore the video below is to be taken simply as a proof that the mechanism design actually works.
The ornithopter is not limited to a single application and has much versatility. Below is a list of the potential applications that the team has been able to come up with. Keep in mind that the list continues to grow in time as we more-fully realize the potential of this project.
• Agricultural Survey (quantity of produce, identification of tree diseases)
• Biological Survey (migration patterns, animal behavioral research)
• Security Patrols (espionage, investigation, perimeter surveillance)
• Atmospheric Data Collection
• Remote Sensing
• Recreation and Hobby
But the list is not really over. In fact, we believe that the finished product can be modified with the addition of components tailored to the specific application at hand making each ornithopter unique. The possible uses of this vehicle are truly boundless.
Optimized Wing design for Efficient-Flight
The wing design is the key to the high-efficiency embedded in the vehicle. Our wing is in fact composed of two parts, rather than one part as the conventional ornithopter designs. This decision has been reached after carefully studying the available literature on the topic, and is based on the vastly superior efficiency achievable through the dual-section design. Expert researchers have in fact concluded that by driving down and at the same time rotating forward the outermost section of the wing, a 50% efficiency increase is achievable over conventional one-piece wing designs. This, combined with an ultra-light weight structure, is a crucial parameter in achieving longer operational time. Below is a demonstration that has been put together by the team for a previous presentation. This shows the rotating motion of the outermost section of the wing described above. The actuation system is composed of a servo, driven by an Arduino microcontroller.
The Dual-Mode flight is another key factor in achieving longer battery life. In fact, the user will be able to switch between flapping and gliding in order to save power when possible.
Some Key Distinctive Qualities
• Revolutionary mechanism combined with ultra-light design allows for a more energy-efficient flight
• Inherent stability allows for user-friendly flight experience
• Reduction in parts leads to a more cost-effective product with less component fatigue
• Green, zero emission, environmental friendly vehicle powered by quickly-rechargeable LiPo battery
• Camouflage capabilities thanks to a very natural wing-flapping motion and use of artificial plumage
• Dual-Mode operation allows user to switch instantly from gliding to flapping flight
• Length: 0.9 m
• Wingspan: 1.5 m
• Weight: < 500g
• Cruise Speed: ~10 m/s
• Battery Life: up to 20 minutes
The team has completed several fundamental tasks for the realization of the project. Computational testing, accompanied by real-life testing of components have allowed for a finalization of the main frame structure within the fuselage. Below is a video of testing executed with ANSYS, which shows the deformation that the frame structure will undergo when a total load of 20 kg is imposed on it. Even though the applied load is much higher than what the structure will ever experience during flight, the frame did not fail, which proved that our design is headed in the correct direction. Please note that the deformation in the video has been GREATLY EXXAGERATED for demonstration and visualization purposes.
The team has also manufactured a foam model in order to test the general stability, weight distribution and aerodynamic characteristics of the vehicle. Many tests have been performed to identify the ideal weight distribution in order to achieve inherent stability, including passive correction to disturbances (such as wind gusts). Wind tunnel tests have been performed to determine the aerodynamic properties (lift, drag) of the aerodynamic surfaces – wings, tail, fuselage – which have provided us with useful insights on how to reduce profile and skin friction drag. The picture below shows the foam wing section of the ornithopter; the airfoil has been chosen in order to achieve the highest possible lift with minimal drag.
The video below shows what is perhaps the most important milestone so far: the first stable gliding flight. Achieving stability in gliding flight is crucial for obtaining a stable flapping flight.
Finally, the team has also made considerable progress in gaining familiarity with the Arduino programming language that will be employed for coding the microcontroller responsible for governing the actuation system. The video demonstration of the wing shown above is an example of this.
We would like to thank our initial sponsors, without which we would not have been able to start our project and get to where we are now.
Team ICARUS will readily update the KickStarter page to keep our backers up-to-date with any achieved progress as the design continues to be studied and improved upon.
Risks and challenges
The field of unsteady-flapping-wing aerodynamics is still vastly unexplored. The few academic resources available on the topic have been carefully studied by our team, and supplemented with empirical data obtained from several wind tunnel and outdoor flight tests that have been performed. However, we are aware of the strong possibility that our first prototype might incur in some issues, especially in the realm of flight-stability.
This will not discourage the team, as many other challenges have already been overcome to get to the current design. In case of difficulties arising, the team can count on the assistance of an outstanding and experienced faculty here at Florida Institute of Technology, with expertise covering all the areas of engineering encompassed by this project.
Moreover, as the team plans to manufacture complex-shaped carbon fiber parts, we do anticipate some imperfections and imprecisions in the fabrication of the first prototype. To avoid such an occurrence, several members of the team are gaining exposure and experience in the area in the Florida Tech Composite Laboratory, under the supervision of experienced faculty and graduate students.
In light of the above discussion, we believe we possess the necessary tools and determination to successfully overcome any obstacle in the path to completion of the project.
- (30 days)