Accession Number:



Flight Control in Complex Environments

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Technical Report,25 Sep 2012,25 Sep 2015

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Lunds Universitet Lund Sweden

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The ultimate goal of this project was to develop a model of a flight control strategy that is effective in simple as well as complex environments. Through a series of behavioural and anatomical investigations, we have made much progress in elucidating the flight control strategies and visual specialisations that allow insects, with their miniature brains and limited sensory systems to fly safely through cluttered natural environments. The most significant findings have been that the tropical orchid bee uses a novel brightness-based strategy to guide its flight in clutter. This strategy is computationally simple and efficient and not only allows orchid bees to avoid collisions when flying through a rainforest, it also allows them to locate apertures that are sufficiently large for them to fly through. Another important discovery that we have made during this project is that the three simple eyes, or ocelli of orchid bees have more than one function. Using the state-of-the-art micro computed tomography analyses of the ocelli, advanced 3D reconstruction techniques and ray tracing all methods developed as part of this project we were able to reconstruct the visual fields of these eyes. We discovered that each eye not only has a field of view focussed on the horizon, indicating a role in horizon stabilisation, they also have a large dorsal field of view that overlaps in all three eyes and appears to function as an analyser of polarized light. Overall, the findings of this project provide new insights into how insects control their flight and avoid collisions in complex environments. These insights are also relevant for the development of lightweight guidance systems that would enable autonomous aircraft to navigate heavily cluttered environments simply and efficiently.

Subject Categories:

  • Flight Control and Instrumentation

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