Aspect ratio studies on insect wings

S. S. Bhat, J. Zhao, J. Sheridan, K. Hourigan, M. C. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The wing aspect ratio (AR), that is, the ratio of the wingspan to the mean wing chord, is the most important geometrical parameter describing an insect wing. While studies have shown that a change in AR affects the flow structure as well as the aerodynamic force components on wings, the reasons behind the wide variety of aspect ratios observed in nature remain underexplored. Further to this, motivated by the developments in micro-air vehicles (MAVs), determining an optimum AR is important for their efficient operation. While the effects on flow structure appear to be, at least superficially, broadly consistent across different studies, the effects on aerodynamic forces have been more strongly debated. Indeed, the considerable variation of force coefficients with AR in different studies suggests different optimal ARs. To help explain this, recent studies have pointed out the coupled effects of AR with other parameters. Specifically, the use of Reynolds and Rossby numbers based on alternative scalings helps to at least partially decouple the effects of AR and also to reconcile previous conflicting trends. This brief review presents an overview of previous studies on aspect-ratio effects of insectlike wings summarizing the main findings. The suggested alternative scalings of Reynolds and Rossby numbers, using the wingspan as the characteristic length, may be useful in aiding the selection of the optimal aspect ratios for MAVs in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121301
Number of pages18
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Cite this