Kinematic strategies for mitigating gust perturbations in insects
Insects are attractive models for the development of micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs) due to their relatively simple sensing, actuation and control architectures as compared to vertebrates, and because of their robust flight ability in dynamic and heterogeneous environments, characterized by turbulence and gusts of wind. How do insects respond to gust perturbations? We investigated this question by perturbing freely-flying honey bees and stalk-eye flies with low-pressure bursts of compressed air to simulate a wind gust. Body and wing kinematics were analyzed from flight sequences, recorded using three high-speed digital video cameras. Bees quickly responded to body rotations caused by gusts through bilateral asymmetry in stroke amplitude, whereas stalk-eye flies used a combination of asymmetric stroke amplitude and wing rotation angle. Both insects coordinated asymmetric and symmetric kinematics in response to gusts, which provides model strategies for simple yet robust flight characteristics for MAVs.