Researchers at Cornell University study the intricate mechanisms of dragonfly flight, and they find…complex, well-designed, interacting systems.
With their stretched bodies, immense wingspan and iridescent coloring, dragonflies are a unique sight. But their originality doesn’t end with their looks: As one of the oldest insect species on the planet, they are an early innovator of aerial flight.
Now, a group led by Jane Wang, professor of mechanical engineering and physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, has untangled the intricate physics and neural controls that enable dragonflies to right themselves while they’re falling.
The research reveals a chain of mechanisms that begins with the dragonfly’s eyes — all five of them — and continues through its muscles and wing pitch.
The team’s paper, “Recovery Mechanisms in the Dragonfly Righting Reflex,” was published May 12th in Science.