Micro Air Vehicle

-To develop a mechanical platform using easily obtainable materials that is capable of flapping wing flight.
-To develop control electronics using a bottom-up analog approach to achieve semi-autonomous remotely controlled flight.
-To stay within the size guidelines of DARPA's Micro Air Vehicle program.
Initial wing design:

New wing design:

Close-up of flapping mechanism:
First generation micro air vehicle prototype

wingspan: 15.2cm  ( 6in. )
weight of motor and mechanics: 36g


The device is far too heavy for flight. It was built as a testbed for various wing configurations, as well as to test if mechanics would work as designed. My goal was to try and design a mechanism with the fewest moving parts possible, while still using readily available supplies. An electric motor was chosen for this reason. Motor technology is shrinking to the point of being feasible for a micro air vehicle.
The initial wing design had too much wing surface and prevented the motor from reaching high speeds. A new wing design was built, having a narrow tip and a wider base, this will hopefully allow a great enough surface area for the device without over stressing the motor. The wings are built from carbon fiber rods and plates for strength and light weight. The wing membranes are made from thin plastic sheet, commonly used for trash bags. I have developed a method of attaching the membranes to the wings using CA adhesive that can withstand high frequency flapping without incurring any damage. 

mav.mov  645k quicktime video of the mechanics in operation. This is the motor running at 1.5 volts at about 300 mA.


Second generation micro air vehicle prototype:

Completed: 11/28/01

wingspan: 9cm   (3.55in. )
weight of motor, wings and mechanics:  3.5g



This version needs to have the motor geared down. The current flapping frequency is about 8 Hz or so at 1.5 volts. Once the motor is geared down the motor will be closer to the top of its torque curve, which will allow more power to be transmitted to the wings. Like the first generation, the device has only one axis of wing movement, so hovering will not be possible. However forward flight should be possible as demonstrated by Caltech/Aerovironment's Microbat ornithopter.

2ndgen_mav_CG.mov  313k quicktime video of the mechanics in operation. This is a computer generated animation which was built as a prototype before the physical model was built.

Original concept mockup using a TPM from Solarbotics:

Composite store

Online Metals

Micro Mark


All images and artwork
© Copyright 2001 Darrell Johnson