Machine Design

Microdrone research studies how mosquitoes fly in the rain

Georgia Institute of Technology

A raindrop can weigh 50 times more than a mosquito, yet the insects manage to fly through downpours. And they don’t maneuver around the drops; they actually get hit by them. For comparison, if you scaled such an impact up to human size, it would be like a person getting hit by a moving car. To see how the insects survive these airborne crashes, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology filmed mosquitoes flying through simulated rain with high-speed cameras.

The first finding was that the small insect’s relatively low mass and strong exoskeleton lets it absorb the impact of being hit by a falling raindrop. In fact, the insect doesn’t resist the impact but gets stuck to the lower edge of the falling drop and “goes with the flow.” It then uses its wings and legs, and the drag they create, to rotate off the water drop. A mosquito typically falls less than 10 in. while stuck to a raindrop.

Researchers hope to apply their findings to the design and control of microdrones, small flying robots used by the military and law enforcement.

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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