The Aerodynamics and Mechanics of Shuttlecocks

'hard-headed, quick-thinking men of affairs are to be seen daily on any golf course, bringing to this pursuit a highly commendable zeal but, all too often, a singular lack of skill, and displaying, from time to time, such gross errors in decision-making which, were they to be carried over into everyday business affairs, would be guaranteed to ruin them overnight. Whereas, given a little insight into the fundamental mechanics of the actions they are trying to perform, it is at least possible that they might show some improvement in the standards they achieve and thereby increase the satisfaction they get from following their harmless and doubtless beneficial pastimes.’

by Alison J. Cooke, New Hall, Cambridge

A dissertation submitted to the University of Cambridge for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy - Department of Engineering, February 1992

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This research aims to improve the fundamental understanding of steady shuttlecock flight behaviour by studying its aerodynamics, mechanics and ballistics. It is hoped that this will provide the basis for an improved design procedure.

Four shuttlecock models are compared: one traditional ‘feather’ shuttlecock and three ‘synthetic’ (polyamide) shuttlecocks. Pressure measurements and smoke flow visualisation experiments were conducted in order to establish the flow regimes around certain shuttlecock models and the production shuttlecocks. Certain features of production shuttlecock design affecting these flow regimes are discussed.

The principle aerodynamic and mechanical design parameters were identified and measured for the four models. The ‘feather’ shuttlecock values provide a guide by which future shuttlecocks can be designed.

The important aerodynamic design parameters are: drag, lift and pitching moment coefficients, together with damping factor and rotation rate. The drag coefficient was measured using two techniques. For the low Reynold’s number range, a terminal velocity experiment was performed (dropping the shuttlecocks in a vertical water column). For the higher range, a wind tunnel with an overhead mechanical drag balance was used. The lift and pitching moment coefficients were measured in a wind tunnel using a specially designed, 3-component strain gauge load cell. Approximate values for the damping factor were measured in a suspension experiment and steady rotation rates were determined in the wind tunnel using a stroboscope.

The important mechanical design parameters are: longitudinal and transverse moments of inertia and position of centre of gravity. These were quantified using various suspension and pivotal methods.

A computer program has been written to simulate the 2D linear and angular response of the shuttlecock during its steady trajectory. The model uses the aerodynamic and mechanical parameters measured in the first stage of this research. A theory was also developed to predict the 3D response, including gyroscopic effects.

Trajectory measurements were made in order to validate this computational model of shuttlecock behaviour and also to enable observations of the angular response of the shuttlecock during a real trajectory. The x,y coordinates were determined by image processing of selected shuttlecock trajectories generated using a specially designed launcher.

Once validated, the computer program was used to ascertain the angular and linear response of the various shuttlecock models studied during a selection of basic badminton shots.

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Copyright Information

The work described in this dissertation was carried out in the Engineering Department of Cambridge University during the period January 1988 to February 1992. This dissertation is the result of my own work and includes nothing which is the outcome of work done in collaboration. No part of it has been submitted to any other university. I have sole copyright.