Control-Oriented Reduced Order Modeling of Dipteran Flapping Flight

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Flying insects achieve flight stabilization and control in a manner that requires only small, specialized neural structures to perform the essential components of sensing and feedback, achieving unparalleled levels of robust aerobatic flight on limited computational resources. An engineering mechanism to replicate these control strategies could provide a dramatic increase in the mobility of small scale aerial robotics, but a formal investigation has not yet yielded tools that both quantitatively and intuitively explain flapping wing flight as an "input-output" relationship. This work uses experimental and simulated measurements of insect flight to create reduced order flight dynamics models. The framework presented here creates models that are relevant for the study of control properties. The work begins with automated measurement of insect wing motions in free flight, which are then used to calculate flight forces via an empirically-derived aerodynamics model. When paired with rigid body dynamics and experimentally measured state feedback, both the bare airframe and closed loop systems may be analyzed using frequency domain system identification. Flight dynamics models describing maneuvering about hover and cruise conditions are presented for example fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) and blowflies (Calliphorids). The results show that biologically measured feedback paths are appropriate for flight stabilization and sexual dimorphism is only a minor factor in flight dynamics. A method of ranking kinematic control inputs to maximize maneuverability is also presented, showing that the volume of reachable configurations in state space can be dramatically increased due to appropriate choice of kinematic inputs.