The Project

PortWings is a ERC 2018 Advanced Grant (Ad.G) (Project ID 787675)of 2.8M Euros awarded to Prof. Stefano Stramigioli, which will officially start on 1-10-2018 and last 5 years totally.  An ERC Ad.G. is the most prestigious grant financed by the Horizon 2020 of the European Commission within  the European Research Council.

Flapping flight is one of the wonders of nature and has been vastly studied by biologists and fluid dynamicists. Many artifacts that mimic biological systems have been built at different scales.
For example, we have managed to create a system that resembles the steady flapping behaviour of its biological counterpart and can fly untethered, stably up to 80 km/h in up to 5 Beaufort wind speed.  This is the Robird developed at the University of Twente, which got the 2016 ERF Tech Transfer Award, and is commercially exploited

by Clear Flight Solutions. The PI and co-authors also received the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine Best Paper Award with the paper titled “Robird: A Robotic Bird of Prey” delivered at the IEEE Robotics and Automation Conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Even if this technology and results are unique and recognised worldwide, we still do not fully understand flapping flight to the scientific depth needed to go even further. The Robird cannot take off on its own, cannot perch, uses symmetric flapping, steers using a number of manifolds placed on the tail

and has a minimal autonomy and a restricted operation time due to power consumption. In PortWings we will gain a much deeper structured understanding of flapping flight and experimentally validate these understandings. This will be done using port-Hamiltonian (PH) system theory and its physically unifying character, which will couple fluid dynamics theory to dynamically changing surfaces and their actuation. The framework has proven to have unique features in connecting distributed and lumped parameters systems of different domains at different scales. This framework allows to study in a unified way the actuation achieving mechanical deformations of the wings and its interaction with the flow. We want to go further than ever before, by modeling and understanding the generation of vortices by mechanical deformations of surfaces and volumes of the wings and body of birds and then understand how to control it. After validating the models by wind tunnel tests with flow visualisation, numerical optimisation will be used to fine tune models and search for uncertain parameters. Based on these findings, artifacts will be built to validate the generated models with real systems. Last but not least, based on the insight gained, a new robotic bird will be realised with unprecedented flight dexterity, able to flap asymmetrically, adapt to the flow and take off and land as birds do, in order to validate the scientific understandings. The PI has formed a team of collaborators with all necessary basic expertise necessary (fluid dynamics, system theory, elastic mechanism design and smart materials)  and have the unique position and needed expertise in order to tackle the challenging proposed goal successfully.

For the project, we will hire  4 new Ph.D. students, 2 Post-docs, a Technician, and will be led and supervised by Prof. Stefano Stramigioli  together with distinguished  collaborators. The post-docs and Ph.D. students will share a common office to advance collaboration in what the PI calls the “One Room Approach’.