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Published July 7, 2012 | metadata_only
Journal Article

The influence of sensory delay on the yaw dynamics of a flapping insect


In closed-loop systems, sensor feedback delays may have disastrous implications for performance and stability. Flies have evolved multiple specializations to reduce this latency, but the fastest feedback during flight involves a delay that is still significant on the timescale of body dynamics. We explored the effect of sensor delay on flight stability and performance for yaw turns using a dynamically scaled robotic model of the fruitfly, Drosophila. The robot was equipped with a real-time feedback system that performed active turns in response to measured torque about the functional yaw axis. We performed system response experiments for a proportional controller in yaw velocity for a range of feedback delays, similar in dimensionless timescale to those experienced by a fly. The results show a fundamental trade-off between sensor delay and permissible feedback gain, and suggest that fast mechanosensory feedback in flies, and most probably in other insects, provide a source of active damping which compliments that contributed by passive effects. Presented in the context of these findings, a control architecture whereby a haltere-mediated inner-loop proportional controller provides damping for slower visually mediated feedback is consistent with tethered-flight measurements, free-flight observations and engineering design principles.

Additional Information

© 2011 The Royal Society. Received 11 October 2011; Accepted 30 November 2011. Published online before print December 21, 2011. We would like to thank Noah Cowan, Floris van Breugel and Francisco Zabala for valuable discussions during the preparation of this manuscript. Research was supported by The U.S. Army Research Laboratory Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance. The work was carried out at California Institute of Technology.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023