Ground Effects

Stable equilibria exist for near-surface swimmers and fliers

Fish and birds experience different forces when they swim/fly near a flat surface (e.g. seabed, solid ground, still lake). We discovered that the vertical forces they feel switch from negative (downward) to positive (upward) at a particular distance from the surface. In other words, there’s a stable equilibrium altitude where they are neither pushed down …

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How thrust and efficiency change if you swim near the bottom of the pool

We developed a model that estimates how thrust and efficiency change as a pitching hydrofoil gets closer to a planar boundary. Our model predicts that the modified forces are caused by an increasing amount of virtual mass and an increasingly distorted wake. We validated the model by comparing with water channel experiments and inviscid flow …

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How aspect-ratio affects near-ground swimmers

Animals and bio-inspired robots can swim/fly faster near solid surfaces like the seafloor. In the past, researchers had quantified how strong these effects were for two-dimensional airfoils. We studied how these results extend to the three-dimensional fins. We found that lowering the aspect ratio weakens the effect of the surface: thrust enhancements become less noticeable, …

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