Strategies for the stabilization of longitudinal forward flapping flight revealed using a dynamically-scaled robotic fly
The ability to regulate forward speed is an essential requirement for flying animals. Here, we use a dynamically-scaled robot to study how flapping insects adjust their wing kinematics to regulate and stabilize forward flight. The results suggest that the steady-state lift and thrust requirements at different speeds may be accomplished with quite subtle changes in hovering kinematics, and that these adjustments act primarily by altering the pitch moment. This finding is consistent with prior hypotheses regarding the relationship between body pitch and flight speed in fruit flies. Adjusting the mean stroke position of the wings is a likely mechanism for trimming the pitch moment at all speeds, whereas changes in the mean angle of attack may be required at higher speeds. To ensure stability, the flapping system requires additional pitch damping that increases in magnitude with flight speed. A compensatory reflex driven by fast feedback of pitch rate from the halteres could provide such damping, and would automatically exhibit gain scheduling with flight speed if pitch torque was regulated via changes in stroke deviation. Such a control scheme would provide an elegant solution for stabilization across a wide range of forward flight speeds.
© 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd. Received 31 October 2013, revised 14 January 2014; Accepted for publication 22 January 2014; Published 22 May 2014. Research was supported by the US Army Research Laboratory Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance (DAAD 19-03-D-0004).