Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Locust simulator teaches robots to fly

New Scientist - 9/28/09 (by Paul Marks)

Smoke signals helps robots fly better (Image: Simon Walker, Animal Flight Group, Oxford University)

A LOCUST flight simulator could be the key to perfecting the ultimate surveillance machine: an artificial flying insect. 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 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, says lead researcher Adrian Thomas (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1175928).

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