The endurance of an aircraft can be considerably extended by its exploitation of the hidden energy of a wind gradient, as an albatross does. The process is referred to as dynamic soaring and there are two methods for its implementation, namely, sustainable climbing and the Rayleigh cycle. In this study, the criterion for sustainable climbing was determined, and a bio-inspired method for implementing the Rayleigh cycle in a shear wind was developed. The determined sustainable climbing criterion promises to facilitate the development of an unpowered aircraft and the choice of a more appropriate soaring environment, as was demonstrated in this study. The criterion consists of three factors, namely, the environment, aerodynamics, and wing loading. We develop an intuitive explanation of the Raleigh cycle and analyze the energy mechanics of utilizing a wind gradient in unpowered flight. The energy harvest boundary and extreme power point were determined and used to design a simple bio-inspired guidance strategy for implementing the Rayleigh cycle. The proposed strategy, which involves the tuning of a single parameter, can be easily implemented in real-time applications. In the results and discussions, the effects of each factor on climbing performance are examined and the sensitivity of the aircraft factor is discussed using five examples. Experimental MATLAB simulations of the proposed strategy and the comparison of the results with those of Gauss Pseudospectral Optimization Software confirm the feasibility of the proposed strategy.
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