Monday, July 20, 2015

DRONE TECHNOLOGY - Studying Insects

"How studying insects may lead to smarter drones" PBS NewsHour 7/17/2015

(aka Nature Does Better)


SUMMARY:  When you watch an insect fly in slow motion, you get a whole new perspective on the complexity of movement and engineering.  A new collaborative research project, funded by the U.S. Air Force, is devoted to studying how insects and animals fly so that humans can build smarter, more efficient aircraft.  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Have you ever watched a bee fly?  Really watched them closely?  Or studied a butterfly or dragonfly darting around your garden?

With the naked eye, it’s often hard to see how they are flying, with tiny wings that can flap hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of times a minute.  But when you watch in slow motion with the help of a high-speed camera, you get a whole new perspective on the mysterious, and incredibly complex world, of insect flight.

So how does a bee with such a giant body and such tiny wings actually fly?

TOM DANIEL, University of Washington:  It beats its wings really fast, and you can’t even see that.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Tom Daniel is a biology professor at the University of Washington who has long studied bees and all sorts of flying insects.  He says there’s a lot scientists have learned about bees over hundreds of years of study, but there is much more to learn about how exactly they fly.

TOM DANIEL:  The sensory information coming off the wing is probably providing gyroscopic data.  The interesting thing is the wings are moving so fast, they are probably exquisitely sensitive to the rotations.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Whether bees and other insects have built-in gyroscopes in their wings is one of the questions Tom Daniel is now trying to answer…

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