Wing Kinematics and Unsteady Aerodynamics of a Hummingbird Pure Yawing Maneuver

Alec Menzer, Yan Ren, Jiacheng Guo, Bret W. Tobalske, Haibo Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


As one of few animals with the capability to execute agile yawing maneuvers, it is quite desirable to take inspiration from hummingbird flight aerodynamics. To understand the wing and body kinematics and associated aerodynamics of a hummingbird performing a free yawing maneuver, a crucial step in mimicking the biological motion in robotic systems, we paired accurate digital reconstruction techniques with high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. Results of the body and wing kinematics reveal that to achieve the pure yaw maneuver, the hummingbird utilizes very little body pitching, rolling, vertical, or horizontal motion. Wing angle of incidence, stroke, and twist angles are found to be higher for the inner wing (IW) than the outer wing (OW). Unsteady aerodynamic calculations reveal that drag-based asymmetric force generation during the downstroke (DS) and upstroke (US) serves to control the speed of the turn, a characteristic that allows for great maneuvering precision. A dual-loop vortex formation during each half-stroke is found to contribute to asymmetric drag production. Wake analysis revealed that asymmetric wing kinematics led to leading-edge vortex strength differences of around 59% between the IW and OW. Finally, analysis of the role of wing flexibility revealed that flexibility is essential for generating the large torque necessary for completing the turn as well as producing sufficient lift for weight support.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • bio-inspired maneuvering performance
  • computational fluid dynamics simulation
  • hummingbird pure yaw maneuver


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