Feeds

Robothopter in biomimetic butterfly boffinry breakthrough

Scientific flap over flapless flapper

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Vid Japanese aerobiomimetics boffins have developed a tiny ornithopter modelled on a swallowtail butterfly.

Here's the obligatory Youtube Flash vid; apologies to those of you reading this on your iPads.

According to Hiroto Tanaka and Isao Shimoyama, the team behind the diminutive flying flapper-bot, the fact that it flies is highly significant. The machine, like the butterfly it is modelled on, beats its wings in simple flapping motions without any fancy control inputs - rather as though it were an aeroplane without elevators, ailerons or flaps.

The two boffins write:

Unlike other flying insects, the wing motion of swallowtail butterflies is basically limited to flapping because their fore wings partly overlap their hind wings, structurally restricting the feathering needed for active control of aerodynamic force. Hence, it can be hypothesized that the flight of swallowtail butterflies is realized with simple flapping, requiring little feedback control of the feathering angle. To verify this hypothesis, we fabricated an artificial butterfly mimicking the wing motion and wing shape of a swallowtail butterfly and analyzed its flights using images taken with a high-speed video camera.

Other butterflies, whose bodies are heavier in relation to their wing area and whose wings are more easily articulated, exert much more active control over their flight surfaces. To date most ornithopter research has focused on this type of flight regime.

Flapping-wing flight is enjoying a resurgence of interest lately as robotics and biomimetics boffins seek to duplicate the various feats that birds and bugs perform easily yet which tend to stymie more conventional airframes such as small unmanned helicopters or planes. Examples include manoeuvres in confined spaces and accurate landings on tiny perches.

US company Aerovironment, for one, is known to be working on a so-called Nano Air Vehicle, thought to use flapping wings, for use by the US military. The new Japanese butterfly research could make such machines simpler and cheaper to build.

Tanaka and Shimoyama publish their research today in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.