Aerodynamics of insect flight

For many years, we have been fascinated by the miracle of flight. Only recently (around 100 years), we have been able to fly, using non-flapping wings. Birds and insects use flapping wings however, and with the coming of high-speed videography, we can now start to understand how it works. For example the common fruit fly flaps it wings at a rate of 200 Hz, but even more importantly than that, we can attempt to measure the time course of aerodynamic forces. This poses a great challenge for today’s engineers. Working together, physicists, engineers and biologists can discover the secrets of insect flight and create new experiments and different approaches to model these phenomena.

With all the knowledge to be gotten from studying flying insects, engineers will soon be able to build exact working copies of insects. Add a microphone or even photo camera in it and it could be used to spy on people (in a worst case scenario, but hey, it’s the government). On me, on you, on everyone, removing the last bit of privacy we still have. However, this technology can also be used to help find and rescue people in case of an earthquake or other disaster where they are pinned or lost in rocks. Does the opportunity for better help outweigh the chance of privacy infringement?




  1. There actually already is that kind of flying, filming insect, called a drone. Although these things are still quite big, there are a lot of privacy issues with them. This might be interesting for you guys.

    I just read some articles about commercial drones and it seems -because there already are standard privacy laws- the only thing the owners can do is try to convince people that they don’t use the technology to spy on people.. I tend to think that if I would use it for filming great views, a sports game,etc. I would not be able to suppress my curiosity and would still exploit the ‘spying’ options. So I agree with the big privacy issue in making these things commercial products, but of course the advantages and potential of developing the technology is also huge.


  2. Yes indeed, those drones exist already, a friend of mine actually has one. The kind that you use to film sport events, festivals, … But as you said, they are still quite big, imagine what you could do with one the size (and movements) of a fly. “I would want to be a fly on the wall” is a nice saying, but I hope it doesn’t become reality. I will look into this privacy issue further.


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