Utilizing adaptive wing technology in the control of a micro air vehicle

W. Null, M. Wagner, S. Shkarayev, W. Jouse, K. Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Evolution of the design of micro air vehicles (MAVs) towards miniaturization has been severely constrained by the size and mass of the electronic components needed to control the vehicles. Recent research, experimentation, and development in the area of smart materials have led to the possibility of embedding control actuators, fabricated from smart materials, in the wing of the vehicle, reducing both the size and mass of these components. Further advantages can be realized by developing adaptive wing structures. Small size and mass, and low airspeeds, can lead to considerable buffeting during flight, and may result in a loss of flight control. In order to counter these effects, we are developing a thin, variable-cambered airfoil design with actuators embedded within the wing. In addition to reducing the mass and size of the vehicle or, conversely, increasing its available payload, an important benefit from the adaptive wing concept is the possibility of in-flight modification of the flight envelope. Reduced airspeeds, which are crucial during loiter, can be realized by an in-flight increase in wing camber. Conversely, decreases in camber provide for an airframe best suited for rapid ingress/egress and extension of the mission range. To these ends, we are working on the design, integration, and testing of MAVs with adaptive wing structures. Our current airframe design is a composite design consisting of small-diameter carbon rods for the structure and a thin, flexible fiberglass/epoxy skin for the wing covering. The airfoil is a thin, variable-cambered plate design and actuators are embedded within the wing structure. Both shape memory alloy (SMA) wires and traditional micro servos are utilized in our adaptive wing designs. An effective shortening or lengthening of the wing chord produces camber variations in the wing. Bilaterally symmetric variations in trailing edge geometry affect the pitch of the vehicle, while asymmetric warping affects roll.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-120
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of SPIE-The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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