Our group focuses on the physical understanding of various challenges in biological and bio-inspired flight, fluid-structure interaction, moving boundaries, and design optimization problems using computational and experimental methods. In particular, we are interested in the physical mechanisms behind the flight of Monarch butterflies.

        Why Butterflies?

We have chosen to study butterfly flight patterns because Monarch butterflies are known for their incredible long distance migration spanning from north America to Mexico (distances up to ~4000 km or ~2500 mi). This takes them between 8 to 10 weeks. We are interested in understanding the aerodynamics and dynamics behind their extremely efficient and agile flight.

This information will then be used to improve the design and efficiency for Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). MAV's are a type of unmanned aerial vehicles, controlled by remotes or software programs. They range from 3cm to 6 inches and weigh about 200g or less. The smallest of these must be attached to a power source by a wire because they do not yet have enough power to fly themselves. We are attempting to eliminate the need for an external power source by streamlining the MAV's flight efficiency.

Monarchs have a wing span of 3.5-4 inches, or about 10 centimeters and a flapping frequency of about 10hz. They have two modes of flying, powered flight and gentle gliding. During powered flight, they are capable of speeds over 12 mph.