Artificial butterfly in flight and filmed (w/ Video)

May 20, 2010

A group of Japanese researchers, who publish their findings today in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, have succeeded in building a fully functional replica model - an ornithopter - of a swallowtail butterfly, and they have filmed their model butterfly flying.

Among the various types of , swallowtails are unique in that their wing area is very large relative to their body mass. This combined with their overlapping fore wings means that their flapping frequency is comparatively low and their general wing motion severely restricted.

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This is the swallowtail ornithopter in flight. Credit: Hiroto Tanaka and Isao Shimoyama

As a result, swallowtails' ability to actively control the aerodynamic force of their wings is limited and their body motion is a passive reaction to the simple flapping motion, and not - as common in other types of butterfly - an active reaction to aerodynamics.

To prove that the swallowtail achieves forward flight with simple flapping motions, the researchers built a lifelike ornithopter in the same dimensions as the butterfly, copying the swallowtail's distinct wing shape and the thin membranes and veins that cover its wings.

Using motion analysis software, the researchers were able to monitor the ornithopter's aerodynamic performance, showing that flight can be realised with simple flapping motions without feedback control, a model which can be applied to future aerodynamic systems.

Explore further: To flap, or not to flap? Flapping wings can be more efficient than fixed wings, study shows

More information: Journal paper: iopscience.iop.org/1748-3190/5/2/026003

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3 comments

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parkerposey
not rated yet May 20, 2010
Clearly a work in progress. Aside from the “falling versus flying” clarification noticed by anyone watching this, I’d like to know how many flaps this thing can manage before it stops running.

http://www.604cleaner.com
KronosDeret
not rated yet May 20, 2010
hmm the majority of insect doesnt use large wings, instead they use manipulation of air stream around their wings, like mosquitoes and flyes. Less energy needed.
labtvonline
not rated yet May 20, 2010
I'd love to see some real time video of this thing in action. It kind of looks more like the butterfly is falling more than flying but I think that just may be the angle that it was filmed from. I know that the military have been working on similar technologies for surveillance micro air vehicles. I'll post a video all about their work on these types of MAV's. They are a little bit bigger than the butterfly but the same basic idea.

http://www.ndep.us/Robot-Birds

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