Dickinson’s findings also put a new spin on insect flight: the
phenomonen called rotational circulation. As the insect wing nears the
end of its stroke, it rotates backward, creating backspin that lifts
the insect just as it does when applied to a tennis ball or a baseball.
The research team, which reported its findings in the June 18 issue of Science,believes
their work provides “a unified theory of insect flight aerodynamics,”
Dickinson says. The next step? Use the technology in their primitive
robofly and the principles they have discovered to create tiny flying
machines with beating wings. Already, Dickinson is part of a group of
engineers and scientists at Berkeley designing such robotic insects.