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Insect flight aerodynamics study informs drone design

Copyright: Daniela on Flickr by CC 2.0

Collaboration between researchers at the University of Leeds, Royal Veterinary College and the University of Oxford has led to a deeper understanding of aerodynamics and contributed to Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology.

Data breakout

50+ Number of insect species studied in flight
£42Bn Estimated contribution of drones to UK GDP by 2030
150 Number of times that a blowfly can beat its wings per second
£827K Value of BBSRC investment in the research

Helicopter-like rotary blades work well for large drones and aircraft, but at small scales they suffer from numerous problems. Flapping wings could help overcome these challenges but the aerodynamics are poorly understood. The researchers collected detailed aerodynamic data for over 50 insect species in flight. By comparing a range of ecologies and wing shapes, the group was able to explain the precise ways in which wing shape affects flapping flight efficiency and performance.

The findings have been presented to NATO and the Ministry of Defence, and sparked a collaboration with Animal Dynamics Ltd, a spinout company that is creating a dragonfly-like UAV in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

Header image copyright: Daniela on Flickr by CC 2.0