Spy flies

Insects are the aerodynamic acrobats of the air; they can take off backwards, fly sideways and land upside down. A biologist from the University of California Berkeley, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, has identified the principles that explain not only how insects stay aloft, but also how they steer and maneuver. Dr. Michael Dickinson and his colleagues have discovered that the aerodynamic performance of insects results from the interaction of three distinctly different mechanisms: delayed stall, rotational circulation and wake capture. These findings are important to the DoD because they will aid in the design and ultimate construction of tiny robotic flies that could be used for a variety of missions such as stealthful urban reconnaissance and target tagging. "Dr. Dickinson's research results increase the feasibility of creating robotic insects that can perform a variety of operations," said Dr. Teresa McMullen, the ONR sponsor of this research. The project, referred to as the Micromechanical Flying Insect, is by a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative just getting underway. The ultimate goal of the five-year project is to develop a robotic fly, approximately 5-10mm in size that can fly a short distance and maintain a stable hover. More information about Dr. Dickinson's research, including a video of insect wingstrokes, is at socrates.berkeley.edu/~flymanmd/on the Internet.


Contact: Loretta DeSio
Office of Naval Research

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