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Aerodynamics of Insect Flight In Turbulent flow – AIFIT

Submission summary

The aerodynamics of insect flight currently receives considerable attention. The fundamentals of insect flight were first explored assuming that insects move in quiescent air. However, natural environment is usually turbulent, but we know very little on how insects manage to fly on windy days. For man-made micro air vehicles it is likewise important to fly in difficult flow conditions. This project proposes to investigate the interaction of insects with turbulence from the complementary perspectives of experimental biology and computational physics. We will define a set of model turbulent flows with reproducible statistical properties, varying systematically the energy content of the scales of turbulent motion, with similar flow conditions in experiments and numerical simulations. We also put a major emphasis on the significance of wing elasticity, and devise a suitable flexible wing model that closely mimicks the elastic properties of real wings, which we measure in an experimental facility. Biological experiments account for the whole complexity of animals, including the brain, sensory system and the resulting changes in the wingbeat kinematics under perturbed flight conditions. Numerical simulations allow studying isolated effects and thus to reduce the problem's complexity. Combining biological experiments on tethered and freely flying insects and numerical simulations of model insects with rigid and flexible wings in tethered and free flight in the same turbulent flow environment allows giving partial answers to the three major questions we consider: (i) What are impacts, benefits and limitations of environmental turbulence on the aerodynamics of flapping insect flight? (ii) How does turbulence affect the energetic cost of flapping flight with flexible and rigid wings? (iii) What behavioral strategies do insects employ to cope with turbulent perturbations? These questions are relevant for both fundamental and applied research, and their interdisciplinary nature requires employing several perspectives.

Project coordination

Kai SCHNEIDER (Laboratoire de Mécanique, Modélisation et Procédés Propres)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


M2P2 Laboratoire de Mécanique, Modélisation et Procédés Propres
ISTA Institut für Strömungsmechanik und Technische Akustik
DAP Department of Animal Physiology, University of Rostock
LMD Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris

Help of the ANR 171,209 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2015 - 36 Months

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