Flight dynamics and control of evasive maneuvers: the fruit fly's takeoff

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Francisco A Zabala, Gwyneth M Card, Ebraheem I Fontaine, Michael H Dickinson, Richard M Murray
IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 56(9), 2009 (To appear)

We have approached the problem of reverse engineering the flight control mechanism of the fruit fly by studying the dynamics of the responses to a visual stimulus during takeoff. Building upon a prior framework we seek to understand the strategies employed by the animal to stabilize attitude and orientation during these evasive, highly dynamical maneuvers. As a first step, we consider the dynamics from a gray-box perspective: examining lumped forces produced by the insect's legs and wings. The reconstruction of the flight initiation dynamics, based on the unconstrained motion formulation for a rigid body, allows us to assess the fly's responses to a variety of initial conditions induced by its jump. Such assessment permits refinement by using a visual tracking algorithm to extract the kinematic envelope of the wings in order to estimate lift and drag forces, and recording actual leg-joint kinematics and using them to estimate jump forces. In this paper we present the details of our approach in a comprehensive manner including the salient results.