Aerodynamic damping during rapid flight maneuvers in the fruit fly Drosophila

B. Cheng, S. N. Fry, Q. Huang, X. Deng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


We systematically investigated the effect of body rotation on the aerodynamic torque generation on flapping wings during fast turning maneuvers (body saccades) in the fruit fly Drosophila. A quasi-steady aerodynamic simulation of turning maneuvers with symmetrically flapping wings showed that body rotation causes a substantial aerodynamic counter-torque, known as flapping counter-torque (FCT), which acts in the opposite direction to turning. Simulation results further indicate that FCTs are linearly dependent on the rotational velocity and the flapping frequency regardless of the kinematics of wing motion. We estimated the damping coefficients for the principal rotation axes - roll, pitch, yaw - in the stroke plane frame. FCT-induced passive damping exists about all the rotation axes examined, suggesting that the effects of body rotation cannot be ignored in the analysis of freeflight dynamics. Force measurements on a dynamically scaled robotic wing undergoing realistic saccade kinematics showed that although passive aerodynamic damping due to FCT can account for a large part of the deceleration during saccades, active yaw torque from asymmetric wing motion is required to terminate body rotation. In addition, we calculated the mean value of the damping coefficient at 21.00×10 -12NmS based on free-flight data of saccades, which is somewhat lower than that estimated by the simulation results (26.84×10 -12Nms).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-612
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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