Giving Drones a New Lift

Posted on February 22, 2017

Aerodynamic research is taking off down in the Otter Lab in McLaughlin Hall here at Queen’s, and the Discovery Channel was here recently to capture it.

Professor David Rival and his three graduate students Kaley Sheppard, Matt Marzanek and Clinton Bond are studying the stability of drones in unsteady flows. Their research is inspired by a 500 million year-old swimming “anthropod”, an animal that had a unique set of three fins. The properties of the fins could lead to a great wing design for drones by giving them better lift and stability. Professor Rival has only fossil records to conduct his research from. “It’s exciting to dig this up from a fossil and find this in the lab right now,” he told the Discovery Channel hosts, in a Daily Planet episode which aired February 16th.

The new Optical Towing Tank for Energetics Research (OTTER) lab and 15-metre water tank at Queen’s MME is the largest optical towing tank in the country and is an ideal space for using water to study aerodynamic problems. “The towing tank is a unique facility to image aerodynamic wakes using laser-based optical techniques,” says Professor Rival. As he explained to the TV hosts, “We use water specifically to study these aerodynamic problems because it slows down the problems considerably, and it lets us essentially reconstruct the wake and understand the forces much better and how to improve these problems, compared to doing it in the conventional wind tunnel.”

You can watch Professor Rival’s appearance on the Discovery Channel here: