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  (Source: infoniac.com)

  (Source: BBC News)

  (Source: wikimedia.org)
A tiny machine flies like an insect; offering great promise in the field of aerodynamics.

How does a butterfly balance itself to float on air?  This is what some Japanese researchers have been trying figure out and it appears that they have done just that. Scientist Isao Shimoyama of the University of Tokyo and Hiroto Tanaka of Harvard University have successfully built and flown an artificial swallowtail butterfly.

Shimoyama and Tanaka did not skimp on details when developing this miniature marvel.  The two researchers copied the wing size and shape.  They even replicated the tiny little veins that cover them, on the life-size, robotic butterfly.  This development shows promise in the field of biomimetics.

The flapping-wing powered, tiny machine proved that controlled motion is not needed for forward flight, that forward flight can be achieved through flapping alone.  By replicating the size and shape, Shimoyama and Tanaka discovered that the butterfly uses its body motions to control flight aerodynamics.

The two scientists had their study, "Forward flight of swallowtail butterfly with simple flapping motion," published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.   According to the study, "during the flights, the artificial butterfly's body moved up and down passively in synchronization with the flapping and followed an undulating flight trajectory like an actual swallowtail butterfly."

The development of this flapping-wing micro air vehicle (MAV) could prove to be very useful in the field of aerodynamics.   A similar nano air vehicle (NAV) study was conducted last year involving an artificial hummingbird.  The research was related to a DARPA project and involved the controlled hovering flight of air vehicle systems.

One significant difference in the findings between birds and butterflies was that birds use feathering to achieve lift.  Since butterflies fly without feathers and their fore wings partially overlap their hind wings, they instead use flapping to achieve lift.




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