Artificial Butterfly Gives Insight to Flight Secrets

Researchers recently put together their own version of a butterfly – modeled after the swallowtail butterfly. The imitation flies exactly like real butterflies do.

A swallowtail butterfly has large wings, which beat slower than the normal rate, which means they fly differently when compared to other butterflies.
Researchers say that even though swallowtail butterflies are at a disadvantage due to their large wings, based on the model butterfly, the swallowtail seems able to fly forward using simple wing-flapping movements.

The artificial butterfly was recently presented in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, a journal which is published by the Institute of Physics.
Modeling the artificial butterfly around the swallowtail butterfly had its reasons. One of them being that this kind of butterfly was unique due to the overlapping of their forewings over their hind wings. This makes this butterfly flap both sets of wings almost as one, which according to basic theory gives them very little control over the aerodynamics. This flapping motion also forces swallowtail butterflies’ bodies to undulate upwards and downwards while they fly, state the researchers on the project. They are Dr. Isao Shimoyana, University of Tokyo, Japan and Dr. Hiroto Tanaka, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Titled ‘Ornithopter’, the artificial butterfly was made as monitoring and even measuring the forces acting on a butterfly’s body and wings are near impossible. Built from balsa wood, the wings on the Ornithopter work off a wire crank attached to a rubber band. The artificial wings are made out of a very thin layer of polymer, which is fabricated with the tiniest plastic veins, making it look almost like a real swallowtail butterfly.