Characterization of Insect Flight Control Systems

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This is a joint project with Michael Dickinson, funded by the ARO Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology. This page primarily describes the work done in Richard Murray's group.

Current participants:
  • Sawyer Fuller (PhD student, BE)
  • Shuo Han (PhD student, EE)
  • Francisco Zabala (MS student, CDS)
Past participants:
  • Sean Humbert (U. Maryland)


The current global objective of the project is to characterize and mathematically formalize (i.e. reverse engineer) the sensory-motor control system of the fly to a degree that its salient features can be used for the design of micro air vehicles and other autonomous systems of interest to the military. Toward this high-level goal, we are characterizing through direct experimentation and modeling the key components of the flight control system including (1) take-off, (2) robustness to wind gusts, (3) chemical tracking, and (4) sensory fusion (of visual and gyroscopic input). In most of our research we are using the common fruit fly, Drosophila, as our model system for studying and extracting flight control algorithms and architecture.