A computational investigation of lift generation and power expenditure of Pratt's roundleaf bat (Hipposideros pratti) in forward flight
Tafti, Danesh K.
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The aerodynamic mechanisms of bat flight have been studied using a numerical approach. Kinematic data acquired using a high resolution motion capture system was employed to simulate the unsteady air flow around a bat's wings. A flapping bat wing contains many degrees of freedom, which make 3D motion tracking challenging. In order to overcome this challenge, an optical motion capture system of 21 cameras was used to reduce wing selfocclusion. Over the course of a meter-long flight, 108 discrete marker points on the bat's wings (Pratt's roundleaf bat, Hipposideros pratti) were tracked. The time evolution of the surface of each wing was computationally reconstructed in 3D space. The resulting kinematic model was interfaced with an unsteady incompressible flow solver using the immersed boundary method (IBM) and large eddy simulation (LES). Verification and validation of the flow simulation were conducted to establish accuracy. The aerodynamic forces calculated from the simulation compared well to the forces theoretically needed to sustain the observed flight trajectory. The transient flow field generated by the simulation allowed for the direct calculation of lift, drag, and power output of the bat during flight. The mean lift coefficient was found to be 3.21, and the flap cycle averaged aerodynamic power output was 1.05 W. Throughout the flap cycle, the planform area of the wings varied up to 46% between the largest and smallest values. During the upstroke, wing rotation was found to mitigate negative lift thereby improving overall flight efficiency. The high resolution motion capture and flow simulation framework presented here has the potential to facilitate the understanding of complex bat flight aerodynamics for both straight and maneuvering flight modes.