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Winged robots may shed light on fly aerobatics

Researchers make flapping machines that take off

Robots that can flap their wings, hover and dart around like a fly could help scientists better understand the finer points of insect aviation, researchers report in the May 3 Science.

Flies can easily dart out of a flyswatter’s path or land on a surface blowing in the wind. Some research suggests that subtle changes in wing motion can create enough twisting motion for them to make sharp turns. Emulating fly aviation in the lab with robots could help scientists understand the details of insect flight. But doing that has proved difficult.

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