Locust flight simulator may help in perfecting robotic flying insects

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Washington, September 29 (ANI): Scientists have created a locust flight simulator that could be the key to perfecting robotic flying insects.

According to a report in New Scientist, researchers at the University of Oxford created the device.

The simulator can model the way wings of varying shapes and surface features beat, as well as how they change their shape during flight.

The device was created using extremely high-speed flash photography to track the way smoke particles flow over a locust's wings in a wind tunnel - a technique called particle flow velocimetry.

This allowed the researchers at the University of Oxford to build a computer model of the insect's wing motion.

They then built software that mimicked not only this motion, but also how wing surface features, such as structural veins and corrugations, and the wings' deformation as they flap, change aerodynamic performance.

The work has shown that wings' surface structures are crucial to efficient lift generation, according to lead researcher Adrian Thomas.

The simulator could be a big step forward for the many teams around the world who are designing robotic insects, mainly for military purposes, though Thomas expects them to have a massive role as toys, too.

"Imagine sitting in your living room doing aerial combat with radio-controlled dragonflies. Everybody would love that," he said.

Until now, modelling insect wings involved building physical replicas from rigid materials and estimating how they might move from observations of insect flight.

Thomas hopes the simulator will take the guesswork out of the process, especially as every flying insect has uniquely shaped wings and wing beat patterns.

Although the Oxford team's simulator is geared for locust wings at present, the researchers are adjusting the software to model the hoverfly - with other insect types to follow.

"What we've shown is that modern aerodynamics really can accurately model insect flight," Thomas said. "That old myth about aerodynamics not being able to model bumblebee flight really is dead now," he added. (ANI)

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