For flow visualisations we use Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) which is a method to both qualitatively and quantitatively measure fluid motions. We use various configurations of this method to study the aerodynamics of animal flight.
Flying animals generate flight forces by transferring momentum to the wake. The resulting induced air velocities can be measured using a PIV-system and based on these results the aerodynamic forces can be deduced and flight performance and efficiency can be estimated.
We installed our first generation PIV-system in 2000, which was a 10Hz single camera system that was used to study the wake dynamics of several different bird species and of one bat species.
Currently, we run two systems in parallel:
Our latest and main system, installed in 2013, is a tomographic PIV-system, which allows us to measure three-dimensional flow inside a volume at 1000Hz. It uses a Litron LDY304 PIV laser (Nd:YLF, 527 nm) and four Imager pro HS4M cameras (2016x2016 pixels). Due to the high demand for light in a volumetric setup the field of view is somewhat limited. Therefore, currently the tomographic system is mainly used to study insect flight, but also that of smaller bats and birds.