Show Details

Fly Maneuvers

April 14, 2014

New research reveals how flies maneuver themselves in flight.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Evasive fly maneuvers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

To a fly, the blink of an eye must seem as slow as a garage door opening and closing. University of Washington neurobiologist Michael Dickinson and his team report in the journal Science that fruit flies avoiding threats can zig and zag thirty times in one human blink. And he says they use the same technique fighter pilots do.

Michael Dickinson (University of Washington):

They roll and pitch the whole body, sometimes flying almost upside down, and that changes their direction of motion very, very quickly, just as a banked turn does in a helicopter or an airplane.

HIRSHON:

Dickinson wants to know how their tiny brains and muscles can respond so quickly and precisely. While the work is basic research, the findings could inform efforts to build tiny autonomous flying robots. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

To hear more from Dr. Dickinson about fruitflies and their aerial acrobatics, check out this Science Podcast:

You can also see a fruitfly in action!

A fruit fly, Drosophila hydei, flaps its wings 200 times a second during normal flight and even faster when taking evasive action. Credit: F. Muijres and F. van Breugel, University of Washington

A fruit fly, Drosophila hydei, flaps its wings 200 times a second during normal flight and even faster when taking evasive action.
Credit: F. Muijres and F. van Breugel, University of Washington