Wing damage control in flying fruit flies

F.T. Muijres, N.A. Iwasaki, M.J. Elzinga, M.H. Dickinson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


The wings of animals are susceptible to damage, which can occur
through general wear or specific events such as collisions or predator
attack. Unlike birds and bats that possess dedicated wing damage
repair mechanisms such as molt, insects cannot repair their wings
and thus need to cope with the detrimental effects of wing damage
for the rest of their life. The most direct consequence of wing damage
is the alteration of aerodynamic forces and moments due to the loss
of wing area, and this might reduce flight performance and agility.
By combining high-speed videography measurements on flying
fruit flies with experimentally induced wing damage with physical
and computational aerodynamics modelling, we determined what
the effect of wing damage is on aerodynamic forces and torques,
and how fruit flies adjust their wingbeat kinematics to compensate
for these detrimental aerodynamic effects. Our results show that
unilateral wing damage primarily reduces weight support and causes
a roll torque, that if not controlled for would make the fly spin out of
control. Fruit flies compensate for these two aerodynamic effects of
wing damage by adjusting their kinematics in a modular fashion: to
maintain weight support a fruit fly increases wingbeat frequency,
and to negate the damage-induced roll torque the animal adjusts the
wingbeat pattern of both the intact and damaged wing. Using the
robotic and computational aerodynamic models we identified the
aerodynamic mechanisms responsible for wing damage control. The
study also allowed us to propose a simple bio-inspired algorithm for
controlling asymmetric wing damage.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
EventAnnual Main Meeting Society for Experimental Biology - Brighton, United States
Duration: 3 Jul 20167 Jul 2016


ConferenceAnnual Main Meeting Society for Experimental Biology
CountryUnited States

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