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Science cover featuring our research on the development of a highly-maneuvrable insect-inspired flapping-wing drone.
Insects, birds and bats have amazing flight capabilities, and especially with respect to maneuverability natural flyers outperform any human-made flying device. This intrigued me so much as an aerospace engineer, that I specialized myself in the (bio)mechanics, aerodynamics and flight control of natural flyers (see Publications). For my PhD studies at Lund University, Sweden, I studied the aerodynamics of bird and bat flight (see here), and for my post-doctoral research at Dickinson Lab (University of Washington, Seattle, USA) I studied the aerodynamics and control of flight maneuvers in fruit flies (see movie).
Now, as associate professor I run my Animal Flight Lab at the Experimental Zoology Group of Wageningen University. Together with my excellent team of biologists, physicists and engineers we study the bio(fluid)mechanics of animal flight (see Publications). Here, we use mosquitoes, bumblebees and pied flycatchers as model organisms. These animals are not only highly-specialized flyers, the flycatcher is an excellent model organism for movement ecology research, and mosquitoes and bumblebees are of high societal relevance. Bumblebees are important pollinators in both nature and agriculture, whereas the mosquito is the most dangerous animal in the world. Therefore, our research consists of both primary and more applied research.
Examples of our primary research:
- How mosquitoes evade a swatting hand
- The aerodynamics of accelerating insect wings
- Efficient gliding flight in Morpho butterflies
- The sophisticated flight control of landing bumblebees
- How wing molt affect escape performance in a flying songbird
Examples of our applied work:
This is what a flying mosquito (Aedes aegypti) looks like up close.
The experimental setup used to study the escape maneuvers of flying mosquitoes. It consists of a flight arena with two stereoscopic videography systems and a mechanical swatter. One five-camera system tracks the mosquitoes in real-time, and the ultra-high-speed camera system records videos of the escape maneuvers at 12,500 frames per second.
A flying malaria mosquito escaping from a mechanical swatter in the dark. The video is filmed using invisible infra-red light. For details, see our study on the escape maneuvers of flying mosquitoes.
A malaria mosquito flying in the dark and being hit by a mechanical swatter. The video is filmed using invisible infra-red light. For details, see our study on the escape maneuvers of flying mosquitoes.