Recent technological advances in the areas of propulsion, guidance systems, and microelectronics, have made miniature autonomous flying vehicles possible. Such devices, known as Micro Air Vehicles (MAV), are now being considered for various defense applications. But, this technology may also have significant commercial possibilities. Most of the current concepts and prototypes attempt to scale down traditional aircraft design to meet defense specifications. However, classical aerodynamic concepts for fixed wing aircraft become impractical at the reduced scale of MAVs.
Initial investigation has confirmed that a flapping-wing design, exemplified by the natural flight of insects, is a feasible solution for efficient flight in the required low Reynolds number flow regime of MAVs. Most insects that exhibit highly evolved flight characteristics fly in an intermediate Reynold's number range (102-104).
Considerable research is needed in unsteady aerodynamics, actuation, dynamics and control, and power. Currently our research focuses on understanding and modeling unsteady aerodynamics (directed by Prof. H. Haj-Hariri) and investigating actuation and insect kinematics (under Prof. C. Knospe).