When you are willing learn, study best. For aircraft, it means dragonflies. Advances in high-speed cameras have allowed scientists to observe how this amazing creature has mastered the air like no other. The lessons can apply to drones and possibly aircraft that are brave or stupid enough to pilot.
Fossils indicate that the ancestors of dragonflies were already in the air 325 million years ago, making them the largest insects ever to survive in the high oxygen-rich times. Their longevity, and the diversity of about 3,000 species, is a testament to the remarkable air fluctuations provided by their four wings that allow them to snatch prey from the air when they fly upside down.
In a brief history of almost everything, Bill Bryson notes that dragonflies can instantly stop, turn, fly backwards, and make ridiculous understandings before quoting an anonymous commentator; “The U.S. Air Force has thrown in their air tunnels to see how they do it and is frustrated.” However, this does not mean that people have stopped trying.
Dr Huai-Ti Lin of Imperial College London placed small magnetic and motion tracking dots on 20 common darter dragonflies, recording and reconstructing their movements. The magnets allow Lynn and colleagues to attach insects to the magnetized platform, releasing living, dead and anesthetized dragonflies in different locations to observe how they flew (or fell in the case of a dead person).
Other animals – whether they are flying animals or cats – are able to spin and turn right in the middle of the air. They rotate themselves from head to toe around the tail axis, a method that reduces momentary inertia and adopted by warplane designers. Lynn, however, found that dragonflies are more flexible and able to backflips like gymnasts, so the axis of spin is in the right corner of the body. They call this Simon Biles a worthy dragon drop. When off-balance the dragonflies use the shortest rotation available to their right. Even groggy from Anesthetic they were able to dragon drop.
Through the activities of B. Lin and co-authors at The Royal Society, we have revealed that we have already adopted some strategies that Dragonfly can teach us. “Planes are often designed in such a way that if their engines fail, they can move at a steady speed rather than descending from the sky,” first author Dr. Sam Fabian said in a statement. “We have seen similar reactions in drug dragonflies, despite the lack of active inversion, some insects, despite their small size, can gain passive stability without active control.” To make it work, however, the researchers put the wings of dead or unconscious dragonflies in the right position before dropping them.
A strategy that works after death is not an evolutionary advantage and being addicted to drugs is rare in the wild. Researchers believe that dragonflies evolved passive stability to save energy, being able to summon themselves without much pressure. Although the concept of passive stability is familiar to aeronautical engineers, Dr. Lin thinks Dragonflies can provide lessons on how to do it better. “Drones rely heavily on quick responses to keep them straight and of course, but our searches can help engineers incorporate passive stability systems into their wing structures.” He said.
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