Morphing structures suitable for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been investigated for several years. This paper presents a novel lightweight, morphing concept based on the exploitation of the “lever effect” of a bistable composite plate that can be integrated in an UAV horizontal tail. Flight dynamics equations are solved in Simulink environment, thus being able to simulate and compare different flight conditions with conventional and bistable command surfaces. Subsequently, bistable plates are built by using composite materials, paying particular attention to dimensions, asymmetric stacking sequence and total thickness needed to achieve bistability. NACA0011 airfoil is chosen for proving this concept. Wind tunnel tests demonstrate that the discrete surface is capable of withstanding the aerodynamic pressure. A remotely piloted vehicle is employed to test the discrete horizontal tail command during the take-off. The results show that, choosing a proper configuration of constraints, stacking sequence and aspect ratio for the bistable laminate, it is possible to tailor the snap-through mechanism. The proposed concept appears lighter and increases aerodynamic efficiency when compared to conventional UAV command surfaces.
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