Title page for ETD etd-05172011-103747

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Holden, Daniel Patrick
Author's Email Address dpholden@vt.edu
URN etd-05172011-103747
Title Flying snakes: Aerodynamics of body cross-sectional shape
Degree Master of Science
Department Mechanical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Socha, John J. Committee Co-Chair
Vlachos, Pavlos P. Committee Co-Chair
Stremler, Mark A. Committee Member
  • Digital Particle Image Velocimetry
  • flying snakes
  • aerodynamics
  • wake dynamics
  • gliding
  • bluff body
Date of Defense 2011-05-09
Availability unrestricted
Chrysopelea paradisi, also known as the flying snake, possesses one of the most unique forms of aerial locomotion found in nature, using its entire body as a dynamic lifting surface without the use of wings or membranes. Unlike other airborne creatures, this species lacks appendages to aid in controlling its flight trajectory and producing lift. The snake exhibits exception gliding and maneuvering capabilities compared with other species of gliders despite this lack of appendages. While gliding, C. paradisi morphs its body by expanding its ribs, essentially doubling its width and utilizing its entire length as a reconfigurable wing. Its cross-sectional shape transforms into a thick, airfoil shape with a concave ventral surface, outwards protruding lips at the leading and trailing edges, a somewhat triangular dorsal surface with a round apex, and fore-aft symmetry. This study investigated the aerodynamic performance of this unique shape by simulating a single, static segment of the snake's body over a wide range of Reynolds numbers (3,000 to 15,000) and angles of attack (-10 to 60o) to simulate the full range of the snake's flight kinematics. This is the first study on an anatomically accurate snake model, and few aerodynamic studies have been performed in this low Reynolds number regime.

Load cell measurements and time-resolved digital particle image velocimetry (TRDPIV) were performed on a 2D anatomically accurate model to determine the lift and drag coefficients, wake dynamics, and vortex shedding characteristics. This geometry produced a maximum lift coefficient of 1.9 and maximum lift to drag ratio of 2.7, and maintained increases in lift up to 35o. Overall, this geometry demonstrated robust aerodynamic behavior by maintain significant lift production and near maximum lift to drag ratios over a wide range of test parameters. These aerodynamic characteristics may enable the flying snake to glide at steep angles and over a wide range of angles of attack, often encountered in gliding trajectories. This geometry also produced larger maximum lift coefficients than many other bluff bodies and airfoils in this low Reynolds number regime.

This thesis is organized as follows. The first section contains a broad introduction on gliding flight and C. paradisi's unique mode of gliding. The following section is a manuscript that will be submitted to a journal and contains the experimental analysis on the snake's cross-sectional shape. Several appendices attached to the end of this thesis contain additional analysis and work performed throughout the duration of this project and unique Matlab algorithms developed during this research.

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