Float like a mechanical butterfly

Postdoctoral fellow Hiroto Tanaka and U. Tokyo colleagues demonstrates forward flight of swallowtail butterfly (Christian Science Monitor)

Researchers have built and flown a replica of a swallowtail butterfly to see exactly how this puzzlingly big-winged, slow-flapping insect soars.

The results could inspire the design of future aircraft based on the swallowtail's distinctive mode of flying.

Swallowtails have giant wings relative to the size and weight of their bodies. These unique butterflies' front wings also partially overlap their back wings, restricting the freedom of motion as well as the frequency of their wings when flapping.

In a trait they do share with other butterflies, swallowtails also lack stabilizing tail wings like those found on airplanes. These fins would serve to dampen the up-and-down motion of the butterflies' fuselage-esque body in flight as each pump of their wings gives them a boost (picture how a butterfly bobs over a sunny meadow).

Read the full article in the Christian Science Monitor and see the robotic butterfly in flight

Topics: Robotics, Electrical Engineering