Experimental Investigation of Butterfly Flight


  • Understand the agile evasiveness and maneuverability of butterflies
  • Understand the endurance of Monarch butterflies, enabling migration over 200 km a day (longest among insects)
  • Understand the effects of high-altitude environment on the Monarch butterfly flight (spotted at 10,000 feet)
  • Model and analyze the coupling between unsteady aerodynamics, anisotropic flexible wings, fore/hindwing combination, and body undulation of butterfly flight


Approach - Multi-fidelity Analysis


  • Established a reliable marker distribution for optimal data capture.
  • Developed techniques to extract morphological and structural data.
  • Conducted multiple flight tests to assess validity of the model and to quantify experimental uncertainties.
  • Obtained preliminary analysis on the role of hind wings and effects of wind gusts


Future Work

  • Development of artificial butterfly
  • Additional wing kinematics measurements
  • Modeling and analysis of the coupled dynamics
  • Vacuum chamber tests to simulate high altitude flight


1. Cranford, J., Kang, C. K., Landrum, D. B., & Slegers, N. Experimental Characterization of Butterfly in Climbing Flight., AIAA-2015-2328