Robotic-flapper maneuvers and fruitfly turns

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Science  14 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6407, pp. 1073-1074
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau7350

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Winged insects have been a rich source of inspiration for designing flying robots, but robots can also be used to test hypotheses about the mechanisms underlying the control of insect flight (1). Winged insects perform continuously demanding tasks from takeoff to landing that include rapid turns as well as virtuosic chasing behaviors. During evasive maneuvers, the fruitfly executes rotations to achieve banked turns (2). On page 1089 of this issue, Karásek et al. (3) show that the accurate control of a new tailless, flapping-wing robot reveals how these insects perform rapid banked turns, even though the robot is much larger than a fruitfly. The similarities between the maneuver dynamics of the robot and that of fruitflies strongly support the hypotheses that rotation around the vertical axis (the “yaw” movement) is passively controlled throughout evasive maneuvers and that fruitflies actively control their heading only after executing these turns.