Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientist Uses Dragonflies To Better Understand Flight

Date:
February 21, 2006
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
To better understand flight, consider the dragonfly. With an unusual pitching stroke that allows the bug to hover and even shift into reverse, the slender, elegant insect is a marvel of engineering. Cornell Professor Z. Jane Wang presented her research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

If mastering flight is your goal, you can't do better than to emulate a dragonfly.

Related Articles


With four wings instead of the standard two and an unusual pitching stroke that allows the bug to hover and even shift into reverse, the slender, elegant insect is a marvel of engineering.

Z. Jane Wang, professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at Cornell University, presented her research on flying systems and fluid dynamics today (Feb. 19) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In a seminar "Falling Paper, Dragonfly Flight and Making a Virtual Insect," she said the best way to learn about flight is by first looking at what happens naturally.

Look at how such thin structures as falling paper move through a fluid environment like air, she said, and then examine how insects use their wings to manipulate that environment and stay aloft.

"The major question I focus on is the question of efficiency," Wang said in an interview. "It's the long-standing question: Of birds and planes, which is better? And if we think planes are better -- why?"

Conventional wisdom holds that airplanes (airfoils) are more efficient because they travel from point to point with no wasted up-and-down motion. "But there are infinitely many ways you can go up and down," said Wang. "Of all these paths, are any better than a straight line? Some are -- that's what I found."

The insight came from dragonflies.

"Dragonflies have a very odd stroke. It's an up-and-down stroke instead of a back-and-forth stroke," she said. "Dragonflies are one of the most maneuverable insects, so if they're doing that they're probably doing it for a reason. But what's strange about this is the fact that they're actually pushing down first in the lift.

"An airfoil uses aerodynamic lift to carry its weight. But the dragonfly uses a lot of aerodynamic drag to carry its weight. That is weird, because with airplanes you always think about minimizing drag. You never think about using drag."

The next question, she said, is whether engineers can use these ideas to build a flapping machine as efficient as a fixed-wing aircraft.

Questions of size and feasibility remain. "To hover well or to fly for a long time is hard, especially at slow speeds," she said. "Power is limited. So finding these efficient motions is very important."

Still, Wang's work moves researchers a step closer to building such a machine.

"I want to build insects on a computer as a way of learning why almost all things that move in fluid use a flapping motion," said Wang. "Whether it's a fish which flips its fins or a bird, they're actually using the same principle.

"The way paper or leaves fall, and how insects fly, may give us some ideas about why animals use these methods at all," she said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Scientist Uses Dragonflies To Better Understand Flight." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060221085151.htm>.
Cornell University. (2006, February 21). Scientist Uses Dragonflies To Better Understand Flight. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060221085151.htm
Cornell University. "Scientist Uses Dragonflies To Better Understand Flight." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060221085151.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) In Africa's only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) Tryptophan, a chemical found naturally in turkey meat, gets blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But science points to other culprits. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins