Pannequin, Jouaiti, Boutayeb et al.
- A new paper in Science Robotics describes a new way to track the flight of insects – something that scientists have found difficult to follow in the past.
- Using a robot attached to cables, researchers have started to study how moths fly. The team hopes to one day use their technology to track the flight paths of other insects such as fruit flies and mosquitoes.
So far we have not been able to follow the trajectory of certain insects precisely because they are too small and too fast. However, researchers have developed a cable-powered parallel robot, which they have referred to as a “lab-on-cables”, to “track and interact with a free-flying insect.”
Lab-on-Cables mount cameras on cables that allow the camera to track the movement of an insect. To test the accuracy of this device, the researchers had the camera track free-flying moths (Agrotis ipsilon) and used “recorded trajectories” to demonstrate that the flight and movement of other insects – such as fruit flies and mosquitoes – could be tracked, also.
In order to analyze how insects managed to “develop flight maneuvers that cannot be compared with current technology”, the researchers built laboratory cables with six degrees of freedom (DOF) – the number of values that can vary freely – and An den Cables are attached to “motorized winches” to enable robust movement to track insects’ flight.
The team then combined lab-on cables with infrared lighting so that a 3D computer rendering of the robot movement was clearly visible. The researchers compare lab-on-cables with a missile guidance system and say:
One key difference, however, is that a missile aimed at intercepting targets flies at its top speed while the lab cable tracking an insect continuously adjusts its speed.
In addition to their wing flaps and other kinematics, the researchers also examined the take-off and landing of A. ipsilon. They found that the frequency of the moth’s wing flaps, the angles of the body, and even the angles of its wing flaps changed depending on how fast the animals were flying.
“As the airspeed increased from zero to three meters per second, the wing flapping frequency increased … while the insect body tended to be more horizontal,” wrote the paper’s authors, who hope their work can help us better understand what these insects are like appearance Use olfactory, visual and other stimuli to orient yourself during takeoff, flight and landing.
Looks like this “lab-on-cables” is already paying off.
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