Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia have been paying close to attention to the perfect turns bees appear to make during the flight. The better understanding scientists get of these turns, the more likely they’ll be able to recreate their flight patterns in drones and other forms of human flight.
In order to get some quality footage of bees flying, researchers temporarily blocked access to their hive. Unable to get in, the bees started to create a “bee cloud” outside. With high speed cameras watching their every move, the bees swarmed around while making any number of sharp turns.
Bees slow down entering their turns and speed up exiting. But, according to a Queensland press release, the bees “were able to maintain a largely constant centripetal acceleration while turning, regardless of how sharp the turns were or how fast the bees were traveling.”
“When a bee is making a turn, it cleverly reduces its speed in an appropriate way so that the centrifugal force that it experiences is always constant,” says PhD student Mahadeeswara Mandiyam, who helped lead the study, in the press statement.
“The sharper a turn is and the faster the bee is going, the greater the centrifugal force that the bee will experience; the bee deals with this problem by slowing down when it makes sharper turns,” Mandiyam says.
Understanding how bees turn, as well, as how they avoid collisions, is central to Mandiyam’s work. Learning how some of the best fliers in nature operate within seeming chaos would be a huge boon.
“If the vehicle needs to negotiate a sharp turn,” he says, “it has to do so in such a way that the centrifugal force is within certain manageable limits, otherwise it can shoot off in what’s called a sideslip.”
Studying bees could help drivers “avoid sideslips in aerial and ground vehicles, Mandiyam says.
It wouldn’t be the first human innovation picked up from the animal world. Scientists have recently used another flying insect, wasps, as inspirations for carrying heavy objects. Animals like spiders and monkeys have also helped scientists create new types of robots. There’s no reason a bee can’t be just as inspiring.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics