Aerial locomotion in flies and robots: kinematic control and aerodynamics of oscillating wings

Arthropod Struct Dev. 2004 Jul;33(3):331-45. doi: 10.1016/j.asd.2004.05.003.


Flight in flies results from a feedback cascade in which the animal converts mechanical power produced by the flight musculature into aerodynamic forces. A major goal of flight research is to understand the functional significance of the various components in this cascade ranging from the generation of the neural code, the control of muscle mechanical power output, wing kinematics and unsteady aerodynamic mechanisms. Here, I attempted to draw a broad outline on fluid dynamic mechanisms found in flapping insect wings such as leading edge vorticity, rotational circulation and wake capture momentum transfer, as well as on the constraints of flight force control by the neuromuscular system of the fruit fly Drosophila. This system-level perspective on muscle control and aerodynamic mechanisms is thought to be a fundamental bridge in any attempt to link the function and performance of the various flight components with their particular role for wing motion and aerodynamic control in the behaving animal. Eventually, this research might facilitate the development of man-made biomimetic autonomous micro air vehicles using flapping wing motion for propulsion that are currently under construction by engineers.