Disc-Wing Aerodynamics Research

I have a book (circa 250 pages, 200 illustrations)

"Spinning Flight : Dynamics of Frisbees, Boomerangs, Samaras and Skipping Stones"

due out in early summer from Springer/Copernicus ). It can be ordered there, or at Amazon.com or with luck your favourite bookshop will get it too.


I am investigating the aerodynamics and flight dynamics of disc-wings such as Frisbees using on-board miniaturized instrumentation. In addition to filling gaps in our knowledge of rotating disc-wing aerodynamics at high advance ratios and angles of attack, this work is instructive in exploring sensor-vehicle integration issues characteristic of small-scale vehicles, and in flight trajectory reconstruction from limited sensor data. Both of these areas are relevant to planetary entry/descent probes (my day job - see home page )

The hardware used to measure the flight dynamics of the frisbee were adapted from those used to measure the swing dynamics of small parachute-borne instrumentation packages (see paper 'A Miniature Parachute-Probe Dynamics Test-bed' by Dooley and Lorenz in Proc. Int. Workshop on Planetary Probe Atmospheric Entry and Descent Trajectory Analysis and Science, Lisbon, 6-9 October 2003. ESA SP-544, pp. 267-274, 2004 pdf )

My generation 1 frisbee (see materials below) used a Parallax Basic Stamp II microcontroller, powered by 2 CR2032 lithium button cells, to log data from a 2-axis ADXL202 accelerometer at around 35 samples per second in flight.

Generation 2 instrumented frisbee in flight at the University of Arizona

Close up of generation 2 frisbee

The generation 2 frisbee incorporated a more powerful microcontroller (Netmedia BX-24), powered by 6 1/3AAA NiMH cells. Sensors include ADXL202 2-axis accelerometer as before, infrared altimeter, 2 photodiode sun sensors, a magnetometer, an experimental upper surface pressure sensor, and a speed-of-sound anemometer.

Unpublished paper on inflight acceleration measurements pdf )

Construction Details of the Generation 1 frisbee are published in Nuts and Volts ) magazine, February 2004 pdf )

Article on Frisbee flight in New Scientist magazine 19th June 2004 New Scientist ) pdf )

Ralph home page ) - see also Sarah Hummel's Frisbee aerodynamics page )