The mission space requirements imposed on the design of micro air vehicles (MAVs) typically consist of several distinct flight segments that generally conflict: the transit phases of flight require high speeds, while the loiter/surveillance phase requires lower flight velocities. Maximum efficiency must be sought in order to prolong battery life and aircraft endurance. The adaptive wing MAV developed at the University of Arizona features a thin, deformable flying wing with an efficient rudder-elevator control system. The wing camber is varied to accommodate different flight speeds while maintaining a constant total lift at a relatively low angle of attack. A new airfoil was developed from the Selig 5010 that features a small negative pitching moment for pitch stability. Wind tunnel tests were performed and stall angles and best lift-to-drag ratios were analyzed from the data. The wind tunnel data was used in a performance analysis in order to determine the flight speeds and throttle settings for maximum endurance at each camber, as well as the MAV's theoretical minimum and maximum flight speeds. The effectiveness of camber change on flight speed and endurance was examined with promising results; flight speed could be reduced by 25% by increasing the camber from 3 to 9% without any increase in power consumption.
Evolution of the design of micro air vehicles (MAVs) towards miniaturization has been severely constrained by the size and mass of the electronic components needed to control the vehicles. Recent research, experimentation, and development in the area of smart materials have led to the possibility of embedding control actuators, fabricated from smart materials, in the wing of the vehicle, reducing both the size and mass of these components. Further advantages can be realized by developing adaptive wing structures. Small size and mass, and low airspeeds, can lead to considerable buffeting during flight, and may result in a loss of flight control. In order to counter these effects, we are developing a thin, variable-cambered airfoil design with actuators embedded within the wing. In addition to reducing the mass and size of the vehicle or, conversely, increasing its available payload, an important benefit from the adaptive wing concept is the possibility of in-flight modification of the flight envelope. Reduced airspeeds, which are crucial during loiter, can be realized by an in-flight increase in wing camber. Conversely, decreases in camber provide for an airframe best suited for rapid ingress/egress and extension of the mission range.