Research ArticleANIMAL LOCOMOTION

Vibrational control: A hidden stabilization mechanism in insect flight

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Science Robotics  30 Sep 2020:
Vol. 5, Issue 46, eabb1502
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.abb1502

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Abstract

It is generally accepted among biology and engineering communities that insects are unstable at hover. However, existing approaches that rely on direct averaging do not fully capture the dynamical features and stability characteristics of insect flight. Here, we reveal a passive stabilization mechanism that insects exploit through their natural wing oscillations: vibrational stabilization. This stabilization technique cannot be captured using the averaging approach commonly used in literature. In contrast, it is elucidated using a special type of calculus: the chronological calculus. Our result is supported through experiments on a real hawkmoth subjected to pitch disturbance from hovering. This finding could be particularly useful to biologists because the vibrational stabilization mechanism may also be exploited by many other creatures. Moreover, our results may inspire more optimal designs for bioinspired flying robots by relaxing the feedback control requirements of flight.

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