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.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
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: Optical zoom in mobile phones getting boost from DynaOptics

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

Related Stories

Scientist uses dragonflies to better understand flight

Feb 20, 2006

If mastering flight is your goal, you can't do better than to emulate a dragonfly. With four wings instead of the standard two and an unusual pitching stroke that allows the bug to hover and even shift into ...

Micro flying robots can fly more effectively than flies

Aug 01, 2009

There is a long held belief among engineers and biologists that micro flying robots that fly like airplanes and helicopters consume much more energy than micro robots that fly like flies. A new study now shows ...

Secrets of insect flight revealed

Sep 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers are one step closer to creating a micro-aircraft that flies with the manoeuvrability and energy efficiency of an insect after decoding the aerodynamic secrets of insect flight.

Recommended for you

New frontier in error-correcting codes

3 hours ago

Error-correcting codes are one of the glories of the information age: They're what guarantee the flawless transmission of digital information over the airwaves or through copper wire, even in the presence of the corrupting ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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