New York University researchers have found that the movement of flying insects are unmatched even by the best pilots due to the fact that these critters defy aerodynamic laws of airplanes.
Leif Ristroph, an assistant professor at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, said “We’ve known for quite a while that the aerodynamic theory for airplanes doesn’t work so well in predicting the force of lift for flapping wings.
We found that the drag or wind resistance also behaves very differently and we put together a new law that could help explain how insects move through the air.”
“To double its flight speed, an airplane must increase its thrust four-fold to counter the stronger wind resistance,” Ristroph explains in outlining the law. “I
He added in contrast they found that flapping wings have a drag that is in direct proportion to its flight speed, to go twice as fast, an insect simply needs to double its thrust.”
Reserchers found that the significance of aerodynamic drag and its strong increase with speed has been known since before the Wright brothers took flight.
After conducting experiment, researchers showed that the back-and-forth motions cause the drag to resist the movement in some instances; however, at other times the drag is actually directed forward, more like a thrust.
This law may not be new to insects, which have been flying with flapping wings for hundreds of millions of years. But the authors think that their findings could help guide the design of tiny flying robots that mimic the wing motions of insects.