Bugs discovered to make use of pure wing oscillations to stabilize flight


Scheme of the longitudinal flight of a hovering animal (hummingbird). Photo credit: Taha et al., Sci Robot. 5, eabb1502 (2020)

A team of researchers from the University of California, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that insects use natural vibrations to stabilize their flight. In their study, published in the journal Science Robotics, the researchers used what they describe as “some kind of calculus” (chronological calculus) to better understand the factors that contribute to flighty winged insects in the air to keep. Matěj Karásek from Delft University of Technology published a Focus article in the same magazine describing the team’s work on these new efforts.

Scientists have studied flight in insects and birds for hundreds of years. At first it was hoped that this would enable humans to fly. More recently, research has contributed to flying robotics. In this new effort, researchers focused on the striking mechanism that allows insects and hummingbirds to stay in the air with a high degree of stability. They find that previous researchers have failed to demonstrate how insects can maintain stability simply because of the way they flap their wings. You actually found the opposite; Such flutter is inherently unstable.

This led the researchers to believe that another factor must be involved. They found that previous researchers had mentioned vibrations associated with the fluttering of insects and robots. This gave her the idea to use chronological calculations – a kind of mathematics to analyze the flow of non-autonomous dynamic systems – to describe the flutter in mathematical terms. They found that when they added natural wing oscillations (vibrations) to the equations, stabilization improved. They also found that the vibrations played a more important role in stabilization when the flying insect or robot was exposed to interference.

The researchers also found that vibrations had little effect on stabilization in small insects. However, larger organisms such as hawkmoths and hummingbirds showed significantly improved stability. Their findings could be of use to engineers developing robots that fly over flutter.

Images of a hawkmoth exposed to flight disturbances while hovering. Photo credit: Taha et al., Sci Robot. 5, eabb1502 (2020) Video showing the phenomenon of vibration stabilization on a pendulum. Photo credit: Taha et al., Sci Robot. 5, eabb1502 (2020) Video showing the phenomenon of vibration stabilization on a robot flap. Low frequency flutter leads to unstable movements that can be easily shifted if the robot is disturbed. In contrast, high-frequency flutter creates vibrations that help the robot maintain stability even when it is moved from its original position. Photo credit: Taha et al., Sci Robot. 5, eabb1502 (2020) A propeller robot is unstable and can easily be moved when it is moved because there is no vibration stabilization mechanism. Photo credit: Taha et al., Sci Robot. 5, eabb1502 (2020) A new type of flying robot imitates the fast flight of insects

More information:
Haithem E. Taha et al. Vibration Control: A Hidden Stabilization Mechanism in Insect Flight, Science Robotics (2020). DOI: 10.1126 / scirobotics.abb1502

Matěj Karásek. Good vibrations for flapping wing fliers, Science Robotics (2020). DOI: 10.1126 / scirobotics.abe4544

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