Magnificent Flying Machine

Posted on March 14, 2007  Comments (1)

A magnificent flying machine

The next time you attempt to swat a fly, remember that you are trying to destroy a flying machine that engenders awe and bafflement in scientists, engineers and professors of aerodynamics. Thanks to remarkable flying skills that make the housefly the Ferrari of the insect world, it is unlikely you will achieve a direct hit. While fleeing a rolled-up newspaper, the insect can change course in as little as 30 thousandths of a second.

This and other flying insects have plagued the worlds of science and engineering ever since the first calculation of bumble-bee flight was attempted at Göttingen University in the 1930s. Conventional aerodynamics suggested the insect should not generate enough lift to fly. The sums caused consternation.

In the past few years, however, remarkable advances have been made. The so-called “bumble-bee paradox” was solved by Dr Charles Ellington and colleagues from Cambridge University when, with the help of a robot insect, they highlighted the bee’s secret: extra lift is generated during a downstroke by a spiral vortex that travels along the leading edge of each wing, from base to tip.

Related: Incredible InsectsWorld’s Lightest Flying RobotAutonomous Flying Vehicles

One Response to “Magnificent Flying Machine”

  1. CuriousCat: Robo Insect Flight
    July 20th, 2007 @ 7:02 pm

    “Recreating a fly’s efficient movements in a robot roughly the size of the real insect was difficult, however, because existing manufacturing processes couldn’t be used to make the sturdy, lightweight parts required…”

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