Structural Analysis of a Dragonfly Wing

S.R. Jongerius, D. Lentink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Dragonfly wings are highly corrugated, which increases the stiffness and strength of the wing significantly, and results in a lightweight structure with good aerodynamic performance. How insect wings carry aerodynamic and inertial loads, and how the resonant frequency of the flapping wings is tuned for carrying these loads, is however not fully understood. To study this we made a three-dimensional scan of a dragonfly (Sympetrum vulgatum) fore- and hindwing with a micro-CT scanner. The scans contain the complete venation pattern including thickness variations throughout both wings. We subsequently approximated the forewing architecture with an efficient three-dimensional beam and shell model. We then determined the wing’s natural vibration modes and the wing deformation resulting from analytical estimates of 8 load cases containing aerodynamic and inertial loads (using the finite element solver Abaqus). Based on our computations we find that the inertial loads are 1.5 to 3 times higher than aerodynamic pressure loads. We further find that wing deformation is smaller during the downstroke than during the upstroke, due to structural asymmetry. The natural vibration mode analysis revealed that the structural natural frequency of a dragonfly wing in vacuum is 154 Hz, which is approximately 4.8 times higher than the natural flapping frequency of dragonflies in hovering flight (32.3 Hz). This insight in the structural properties of dragonfly wings could inspire the design of more effective wings for insect-sized flapping micro air vehicles: The passive shape of aeroelastically tailored wings inspired by dragonflies can in principle be designed more precisely compared to sail like wings —which can make the dragonfly-like wings more aerodynamically effective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1323-1334
JournalExperimental Mechanics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • hovering model hawkmoth
  • insect flight
  • aerodynamic characteristics
  • mechanical-properties
  • flexural stiffness
  • forces
  • air
  • kinematics
  • resilin
  • vortex

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