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A Review of Bird-Inspired Flapping Wing Miniature Air Vehicle Designs

[+] Author Affiliations
John W. Gerdes, Satyandra K. Gupta

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Stephen A. Wilkerson

U.S. Army Research Lab, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

Paper No. DETC2010-28513, pp. 57-67; 11 pages
  • ASME 2010 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 2: 34th Annual Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, Parts A and B
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada, August 15–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4410-6 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3881-5
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


Physical and aerodynamic characteristics of the bird in flight may offer benefits over typical propeller or rotor driven miniature air vehicle (MAV) locomotion designs in certain types of scenarios. A number of research groups and companies have developed flapping wing vehicles that attempt to harness these benefits. The purpose of this paper is to report different types of flapping wing designs and compare their salient characteristics. For each category, advantages and disadvantages will be discussed. The discussion presented will be limited to miniature-sized flapping wing air vehicles, defined as 10–100 grams total weight. The discussion will be focused primarily on ornithopters which have performed at least one successful test flight. Additionally, this paper is intended to provide a representation of the field of current technology, rather than providing a comprehensive listing of all possible designs. This paper will familiarize a newcomer to the field with existing designs and their distinguishing features. By studying existing designs, future designers will be able to adopt features from other successful designs. This paper also summarizes the design challenges associated with the further advancement of the field and deploying flapping wing vehicles in practice.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME



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