Robot butterfly could inspire future aerodynamic systems

A group of Japanese researchers have succeeded in building a fully functional replica model – an ornithopter – of a swallowtail butterfly.

The swallowtail is viewed as a possible model for future aerodynamic systems because of its unique ability to fly forward with simple flapping motions and no feedback control.

In order to prove their ability to recreate such methods of flight, the researchers built a lifelike ornithopter in the same dimensions as the butterfly, copying the swallowtail’s distinct wing shape and the thin membranes and veins that cover its wings. The team then used motion analysis software to monitor the ornithopter’s aerodynamic performance.