Intrinsic stability of a body hovering in an oscillating Airflow

Bin Liu, Leif Ristroph, Annie Weathers, Stephen Childress, Jun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore the stability of flapping flight in a model system that consists of a pyramid-shaped object hovering in a vertically oscillating airflow. Such a flyer not only generates sufficient aerodynamic force to keep aloft but also robustly maintains balance during free flight. Flow visualization reveals that both weight support and orientational stability result from the periodic shedding of vortices. We explain these findings with a model of the flight dynamics, predict increasing stability for higher center of mass, and verify this counterintuitive fact by comparing top- and bottom-heavy flyers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number068103
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 9 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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