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Improve MAVs By Studying Bees In Flight

Micro-air vehicles (MAVs) are tiny flying machines at the mercy of even the tiniest whisper of wind. Researchers at the University of Maryland are studying how bees recover from wind gusts to see if they can't improve MAV performance.


(Composite photo of bee recovering from sudden draft)

To study the bees in flight, the researchers built a small-scale wind tunnel that subjects the insects to varying wind disturbances. The researchers film the bees using high-speed videography and slow down the resulting video, so they can observe the minutest changes in the bees' wing movements while compensating for wind gusts.

“Insects fly in very dynamic and uncertain environments. By replicating these conditions in the lab, we can identify mechanisms that enable insects’ robust flight performance,” said Jason T. Vance, a biologist and post-doctoral researcher in the Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory (AVL) at the A. James Clark School of Engineering on the University of Maryland, College Park, campus.

As you can see in the following video, bees use asymmetric wing strokes for quick recovery in gusts of wind.


(Study bees in flight for MAV improvement)

Improving MAV flight characteristics could make tight formation-flying aerostat monitors like those described in Neal Stephenson's 1995 novel The Diamond Age possible; otherwise, their dog pod grid would be difficult to achieve in breezy conditions.

Also, there's nothing like studying real bees to help bring the bee cams from Karen Traviss' 2004 novel City of Pearl to life.

Follow these tiny links for more stories about micro air vehicles:

From Physorg.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/1/2010)

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