The leading-edge vortex of swift wing-shaped delta wings

Rowan Eveline Muir, Abel Arredondo-Galeana, Ignazio Maria Viola

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Recent investigations on the aerodynamics of natural fliers have illuminated the significance of the leading-edge vortex (LEV) for lift generation in a variety of flight conditions. A well-documented example of an LEV is that generated by aircraft with highly swept, delta-shaped wings. While the wing aerodynamics of a manoeuvring aircraft, a bird gliding and a bird in flapping flight vary significantly, it is believed that this existing knowledge can serve to add understanding to the complex aerodynamics of natural fliers. In this investigation, a model non-slender delta-shaped wing with a sharp leading edge is tested at low Reynolds number, along with a delta wing of the same design, but with a modified trailing edge inspired by the wing of a common swift Apus apus. The effect of the tapering swift wing on LEV development and stability is compared with the flow structure over the unmodified delta wing model through particle image velocimetry. For the first time, a leading-edge vortex system consisting of a dual or triple LEV is recorded on a swift wing-shaped delta wing, where such a system is found across all tested conditions. It is shown that the spanwise location of LEV breakdown is governed by the local chord rather than Reynolds number or angle of attack. These findings suggest that the trailing-edge geometry of the swift wing alone does not prevent the common swift from generating an LEV system comparable with that of a delta-shaped wing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number170077
Number of pages14
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2017


  • delta wing
  • bird wing aerodynamics
  • common swift Apus apus
  • leading-edge vortex
  • swept wing
  • particle image velocimetry


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