Date Available


Year of Publication


Document Type





Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Jamey D. Jacob

Second Advisor

Suzanne Weaver Smith


Performance of inflatable wings was investigated through laboratory, wind tunnel and flight-testing. Three airfoils were investigated, an inflatable-rigidazable wing, an inflatable polyurethane wing and a fabric wing restraint with a polyurethane bladder. The inflatable wings developed and used within this research had a unique outer airfoil profile. The airfoil surface consisted of a series of chord-wise \bumps.andamp;quot; The effect of the bumps or \surface perturbationsandamp;quot; on the performance of the wings was of concern and was investigated through smoke-wire flow visualization. Aerodynamic measurements and predictions were made to determine the performance of the wings at varying chord based Reynolds Numbers and angles of attack. The inflatable baffes were found to introduce turbulence into the free-stream boundary layer, which delayed separation and improved performance. Another area of concern was aeroelasticity. The wings contain no solid structural members and thus rely exclusively on inflation pressure for stiffness. Inflation pressure was varied below the design pressure in order to examine the effect on wingtip twist and bending. This lead to investigations into wing deformation due to aerodynamic loading and an investigation of wing flutter. Photogrammetry and laser displacement sensors were used to determine the wing deflections. The inflatable wings exhibited wash-in deformation behavior. Alternately, as the wings do not contain structural members, the relationship between stiffness and inflation pressure was exploited to actively manipulate wing through wing warping. Several warping techniques were developed and employed within this re-search. The goal was to actively influence the shape of the inflatable wings to affect the flight dynamics of the vehicle employing them. Researchers have developed inflatable beam theory and models to analyze torsion and bending of inflatable beams and other inflatable structures. This research was used to model the inflatable wings to predict the performance of the inflatable wings during flight. Design elements of inflatable wings incorporated on the UAVs used within this research are also discussed. Finally, damage resistance of the inflatable wings is shown from results of flight tests.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.