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Published September 1, 2010 | Published
Journal Article Open

A linear systems analysis of the yaw dynamics of a dynamically scaled insect model


Recent studies suggest that fruit flies use subtle changes to their wing motion to actively generate forces during aerial maneuvers. In addition, it has been estimated that the passive rotational damping caused by the flapping wings of an insect is around two orders of magnitude greater than that for the body alone. At present, however, the relationships between the active regulation of wing kinematics, passive damping produced by the flapping wings and the overall trajectory of the animal are still poorly understood. In this study, we use a dynamically scaled robotic model equipped with a torque feedback mechanism to study the dynamics of yaw turns in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Four plausible mechanisms for the active generation of yaw torque are examined. The mechanisms deform the wing kinematics of hovering in order to introduce asymmetry that results in the active production of yaw torque by the flapping wings. The results demonstrate that the stroke-averaged yaw torque is well approximated by a model that is linear with respect to both the yaw velocity and the magnitude of the kinematic deformations. Dynamic measurements, in which the yaw torque produced by the flapping wings was used in real-time to determine the rotation of the robot, suggest that a first-order linear model with stroke-average coefficients accurately captures the yaw dynamics of the system. Finally, an analysis of the stroke-average dynamics suggests that both damping and inertia will be important factors during rapid body saccades of a fruit fly.

Additional Information

© 2010 Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Accepted 23 April 2010. First published online August 13, 2010. We thank Sawyer B. Fuller and Martin Y. Peek for technical advice and assistance. Research was supported by the Army Research Office (ARO) DAAD 19-003-D-0004, the National Science Foundation (NSF) FIBR 0623527, and The U.S. Army Research Laboratory Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023