Skip to main content Accessibility help

Experimental and numerical study of the flight of geese

  • G. Dimitriadis (a1), J. D. Gardiner (a1), P. G. Tickle (a2), J. Codd (a2) and R. L. Nudds (a2)...


The flight of barnacle geese at airspeeds representing high-speed migrating flight is investigated using experiments and simulations. The experimental part of the work involved the filming of three barnacle geese (Branta Leucopsis) flying at different airspeeds in a wind tunnel. The video footage was analysed in order to extract the wing kinematics. Additional information, such as wing geometry and camber was obtained from a 3D scan of a dried wing. An unsteady vortex lattice method was used to simulate the aerodynamics of the measured flapping motion. The simulations were used in order to successfully reproduce the measured body motion and thus obtain estimates of the aerodynamic forces acting on the wings. It was found that the mean of the wing pitch angle variation with time has the most significant effect on lift while the difference in the durations of the upstroke and downstroke has the major effect on thrust. The power consumed by the aerodynamic forces was also estimated; it was found that increases in aerodynamic power correspond very closely to climbing motion and vice versa. Root-mean-square values of the power range from 100W to 240W. Finally, it was observed that tandem flying can be very expensive for the trailing bird.


Corresponding author


Hide All
1.Jones, K.D., Dohring, C.M. and Platzer, M.F.Experimental and computational investigation of the Knoller-Betz effect, AIAA J, 1998, 36, (7), pp 12401246.
2.Hall, K.C., Pigott, S.A. and Hall, S.R.Power requirements for large-amplitude flapping flight, J Aircr, 1998, 35, (3), pp 352361.
3.Shyy, W., Berg, M. and Ljungqvist, D.Flapping and flexible wings for biological and micro air vehicles, Prog in Aerospace Sci, 1999, 35, (5), pp 455505.
4.Mueller, T.J. (Ed). Fixed and flapping wing aerodynamics for micro air vehicle applications, Prog in Astronautics and Aeronautics, 2001, Vol 195, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
5.Stanford, B.K. and Beran, P.S.Analytical sensitivity analysis of an unsteadyvortex-lattice method for flapping-wing optimization, J Aircr, 2010, 47, (2), pp 647662.
6.Politis, G. and Politis, K.Biomimetic propulsion under random heaving conditions, using active pitch control, J Fluids and Structures, 2014, 47, pp 139149.
7.Sarkar, S. and Venkatraman, K.Unsteady aerodynamics of a flapping airfoil, 2010, Lambert Academic Publishing.
8.Chimakurthi, S.K., Tang, J., Palacios, R., Cesnik, C.E.S. and Shyy, W.Computational aeroelasticity framework for analyzing flapping wing micro air vehicles, AIAA J, 2009, 47, (8), pp 18651878.
9.Gopalakrishnan, P. and Tafti, D.K.Numerical study of fexible flapping wing propulsion, AIAA J, 2010, 48, (5), pp 865877.
10.Yang, T., Wei, M. and Zhao, H.Numerical study of flexible flapping wing propulsion, AIAA J, 2010, 48, (12), pp 29092915.
11.Gordnier, R.E., Chimakurthi, S.K., Cesnik, C.E.S. and Attar, P.J.High fidelity aeroelastic computations of a flapping wing with spanwise flexibility, J Fluids and Structures, 2013, 40, pp 86104.
12.Yu, M., Wang, Z.J. and Hu, H.High fidelity numerical simulation of airfoil thickness and kinematics effects on flapping airfoil propulsion, J Fluids and Structures, 2013, 42, pp 166186.
13.Visbal, M., Yilmaz, T.O. and Rockwell, D.Three-dimensional vortex formation on a heaving low-aspect-ratio wing:computations and experiments, J Fluids and Structures, 2013, 38, pp 5876.
14.Hubel, T.Y. and Tropea, C.Experimental investigation of a flapping wing model, Experiments in Fluids, December 2008, 46, (5), pp 945961.
15.Mazaheri, K. and Ebrahimi, A.Experimental investigation on aerodynamic performance of a flapping wing vehicle in forward flight, J Fluids and Structures, 2011, 27, pp 586595.
16.Shkarayev, S. and Silin, D.Measurements of aerodynamic coefficients for flapping wings at 0-90 angles of attack, AIAA J, 2012, 50, (10), pp 20342042.
17.Malhan, R., Benedict, M. and Chopra, I.Experimental studies to understand the hover and forward flight performance of a mav-scale flapping wing concept, J American Helicopter Soc, 2012, 52, (7), 022002–1 – 022002–11.
18.Prangemeier, T., Rival, D. and Tropea, C.The manipulation of trailing-edge vortices for an airfoil in plunging motion, J Fluids and Structures, 2010, 26, pp 193204.
19.Kang, C., Aono, H., Baik, Y.S., Bernal, L.P. and Shyy, W.Fluid dynamics of pitching and plunging fat plate at intermediate Reynolds numbers, AIAA J, 2013, 51, (2), pp 315329.
20.Razak, N.A. and Dimitriadis, G. Experimental study of wings undergoing active root flapping and pitching, J Fluids and Structures, 2014.
21.Grauer, J., Ulrich, E., Hubbard, J., Pines, D. and Humbert, J.S.Testing and system identification of an ornithopter in longitudinal flight, J Aircr, 2011, 48, (2), pp 660667.
22.Rozhdestvensky, K.V. and Ryzhov, V.A.Aerohydrodynamics of flapping-wing propulsors, Prog in Aerospace Sci, 2003, 39, pp 585633.
23.Mueller, T.J. and Delaurier, J.D.Aerodynamics of small vehicles, Annual Rev Fluid Mech, 2003, 35, pp 89111.
24.Hoa, S., Nassefa, H., Pornsinsirirak, N., Taib, Y.C. and Hoa, C.M.Unsteady aerodynamics and fow control for flapping wing flyers, Prog in Aerospace Sci, 2003, 39, (8), pp 635681.
25.Shyy, W., Arno, H., Chimakurthi, S.K., Trizila, P., Kang, C.K., Cesnik, C.E.S. and Liu, H.Recent progress in flapping wing aerodynamics and aeroelasticity, Prog in Aerospace Sci, 2010, 46, (7), pp 284327.
26.Young, J., Lai, J.C.S. and platzer, M.F.A review of progress and challenges in flapping foil power generation, 2014, Prog in Aerospace Sci, 67, pp 228.
27.Ellington, C.P.Novel aerodynamics of insect flight: Application to micro air vehicle, J Experimental Biology, 1999, 202, (23), pp 34393448.
28.Ansari, S.A., Zbikowski, R. and Knoewles, K.Aerodynamic modelling of insect like flapping flight for micro air vehicles, Prog in Aerospace Sci, 2006, 42, (2), pp 129172.
29.Winter, D.A.Biomechanics and Motor Control of Human Movement, 1990, Wiley Interscience.
30.Berkooz, G., Holmes, P. and Lumley, J.L.The proper orthogonal decomposition in the analysis of turbulent flows, Annual Review of Fluid Mech, 1993, 25, pp 539575.
31.Abbott, I.H. and Von Doenhoff, A.E.Theory of Wing Sections: Including a Summary of Airfoil Data, 1959, Dover, New York, USA.
32.Katz, J. and Plotkin, A.Low Speed Aerodynamics, 2001, Cambridge University Press, UK.
33.Murua, J., Palacios, R. and Graham, J.M.R.Applications of the unsteady vortex-lattice method in aircraft aeroelasticity and flight dynamics, 2012, Prog in Aerospace Sci, 55, pp 4672.
34.Razak, N.A. and Dimitriadis, G.Experiments on a 3-D flapping and pitching mechanical model, June 2009, 2009 International Forum on Aeroelasticity and Structural Dynamics, IFASD 2009-124, Seattle, WA, USA.
35.Razak, N.A.Experimental Investigation of the Aerodynamics and Aeroelasticity of Flapping, Plunging and Pitching Wings, PhD thesis, 2012, University of Liège, Belgium.
36.Prasad, C.S. and Dimitriadis, G.Aerodynamic modeling of horizontal axis wind turbines, July 2011, 13th International Conference on Wind Engineering, ICWE13-148, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
37.Prasad, C.S. and Dimitriadis, G.Double wake vortex lattice modeling of horizontal axis wind turbines, June 2011, 15th International Forum on Aeroelasticity and Structural Dynamics, IFASD2011-180, Paris, France.
38.Simpson, R.J.S. and Palacios, R.Induced-drag calculations in the unsteady vortex lattice method, AIAA J, 2013, 51, (7), pp 17751779.
39.Portugal, S.J.Green, J.A. and Butler, P.J.Annual changes in body mass and resting metabolism in captive barnacle geese (branta leucopsis): the importance of wing moult, J Experimental Biology, 2007, 210, (8), pp 13911397.
40.Pennycuick, C.J., Obrecht, H.H. and Fuller, M.R.Empirical estimates of body drag of large waterfowl and raptors, J Experimental Biology, 1988, 135, pp 253264.
41.Pennycuick, C.J., Klaassen, M., Kvist, A. and Lindstroöm, Å.Wingbeat frequency and the body drag anomaly: wind-tunnel observations on a thrush nightingale (luscinia luscinia) and a teal (anas crecca), J Experimental Biology, 1996, 199, pp 27572765.
42.Spedding, G.R., Rayner, J.M.V. and Pennycuick, C.J.Momentum and energy in the wake of a pigeon (columba livia) in slow flight, J of Experimental Biology, 1984, 111, pp 81102.
43.Spedding, G.R.The wake of a kestrel in flapping flight, J Experimental Biology, 1987, 127, (1), pp 5978.
44.Harmon, R.L.Aerodynamic Modeling of a Flapping Membrane Wing Using Motion Tracking Experiments, Master’s thesis 2008, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA.

Experimental and numerical study of the flight of geese

  • G. Dimitriadis (a1), J. D. Gardiner (a1), P. G. Tickle (a2), J. Codd (a2) and R. L. Nudds (a2)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed