Feeds

Robothopter in biomimetic butterfly boffinry breakthrough

Scientific flap over flapless flapper

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.