Mechanisms of collision recovery in flying beetles and flapping-wing robots

Protection in the wings

Beetles have hardened forewings for the protection of their bodies and hindwings, and their use during crawling or burrowing is well understood. However, the behavior of the larger hindwings during collisions in flight has not been clear because they do not readily flex. Phan and Park present a detailed study of the folding and unfolding mechanisms of the hindwings in free-flying rhinoceros beetles in which the wings were impacted during flight to simulate a cluttered environment (see the Perspective by Sun). They found that origami-like folds in the wing could rapidly collapse on impact and then spring back, thus acting as shock absorbers and stabilizers. The authors replicated this behavior in a flapping-wing robot, enabling it to fly safely after collisions.

Science, this issue p. 1214; see also p. 1165

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