Dragonfly Flight: Novel Uses of Unsteady Separated Flows

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Science  14 Jun 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4705, pp. 1326-1329
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4705.1326


Studies of insect flight have revealed novel mechanisms of production of aerodynamic lift. In the present study, large lift forces were measured during flight episodes elicited from dragonflies tethered to a force balance. Simultaneously, stroboscopic photographs provided stop-action views of wing motion and the flowfield structure surrounding the insect. Wing kinematics were correlated with both instantaneous lift generation and vortex-dominated flow fields. The large lift forces appear to be produced by unsteady flow-wing interactions. This successful utilization of unsteady separated flows by insects may signal the existence of a whole new class of fluid dynamic uses that remain to be explored.

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