Monday, May 2, 2011

Housefly inspired flying machines a.k.a Biomimetics- Part 1

There I am... back from the shady examination halls of the university to the welcome effulgence of the blog airspace...and if you thought AirborneGeeks was lost , the answer is NO :-). Just that we hit an air pocket and are teetering back to normalcy after a bout with turbulence :-).

So the thing which interested me for the past few days was biomimetic flight research of flies ......(yes...houseflies ).

For starters, biomimetics the science of imitating nature`s solution to various problems and apply them to engineering.Wikipedia defines it as "the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology".Nature has developed a formidable technology of its own and this has been "imitated" by scientists to design new products.The most notable example being the "Velcro strap" you find in sandals,bags etc.It was in fact invented by a Swiss Engineer after noticing how the hooks of the plant burrs stuck in the fur of his dog.

On the whole,biomimetics is something like reverse-engineering nature`s mechanism.However, In this case, scientists are investigating as to how a fly stays up in the air , by analyzing the amount of power it needs to do so, and the wings it uses to carry out its job.

       But why the fly.. of all insects? The primary reason lies in its amazing efficiency and flight control.the power to weight ratio of its muscles is astoundingly high, and the non-steady state aerodynamics give it more lift than what an aircraft can normally expect. 
                         Physical specifications apart, the greatest capability of the fly lies in its agility and unrivaled control over its flight , even more than other insects ( To understand this.. try to recollect the last time you succeeded in swatting a fly with your bare hands....difficult huh?).Its rapid change of direction, altitude and speed make the man made airplanes practically look like snails in comparison :-).The reason is the tight integration of  sensory apparatus in the fly`s body , combined with a lightening fast control system and data processing capacity.This is the biggest challenge.

So here`s  the thing - design a miniature flying machine that  does exactly this, except that its under our control this time.
Weighing only 0.1 gram , and having wings which exactly mimic the fly in its frequency of beating ( about 150 flaps/sec) the electro-mechanical contraption has been designed at the University of California -Berkeley.called as the micromechanical flying insect (MFI) The first powered flight has been successful,but there are still many limitations it needs to overcome before being fully functional  ( like engage in a live combat with those flies in your kitchen :-D  ). More about that in my next post.. 


Anonymous said...

Your style of writing is interesting and makes even a layman to understand.

Anonymous said...

I like ur post ARVIND

Henri Naths said...

Has the top speed of a housefly from a standstill, ( as in ft per second) ever been recorded?

roja a said...

Its a very nice post..
house fly control products in india

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