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Flow sensing and load sensing in insect flight with applications to Unmanned Air Systems

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  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Insects are richly instrumented with flow and load sensors on the wings, head, and body (Taylor & Krapp, 2007): together these provide a qualitatively different kind of feedback to that which is used in the control of man-made aircraft. Our aim in this project is to investigate how insects use flow sensing and load sensing in flight control, with a view ultimately to informing the design of novel control architectures for fixed or flapping-wing Unmanned Air Systems (UAS). This project will suit applicants with a background in either biology or engineering with specific interests in any of the following: behaviour, neurophysiology, biomechanics, flight mechanics, aerodynamics, or unmanned air systems. The work will combine experimental and modelling approaches, but the precise scope of the work that will be undertaken by the student will be tailored to their own particular interests. For example, if the successful candidate has a background in biology, then we would expect to emphasise behavioural or physiological aspects of the project in their work; on the other hand, if the successful candidate has a background in engineering, then we would expect to emphasise the flow measurement or control theoretic aspects of the project in their work. The successful candidate will become part of a thriving research group, currently with 12 members representing a diverse range of interests and academic backgrounds.

A more detailed description of the project will be supplied upon request.

Funding Notes

This DPhil is funded by Dstl under the MoD's National PhD Scheme. This 4-year award provides a maintenance grant at the UK Research Councils minimum stipend (currently £13590 pa) plus an uplift of £1500 pa. University and College tuition fees will be supported by the award at Home/EU level. We aim to appoint a student to begin on 1 October 2012.

To apply please access the online application system at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate_courses/apply . Please quote studentship reference code: GT01. Submit a personal statement rather than a research proposal.


Bomphrey RJ. 2011. Advances in Animal Flight Aerodynamics Through Flow Measurement. Evolutionary Biology 38(4):1-11.

Bomphrey, R. J., Harding, N. J., Lawson, N. J., Taylor, G. K., & Thomas, A. L. R. (2005). The aerodynamics of Manduca sexta: digital particle image velocimetry of the leading-edge vortex, J. Exp. Biol., 208, 1079–1094.

Bomphrey, R. J., Lawson, N. J., Taylor, G. K., & Thomas, A. L. R. (2006). Application of digital particle image velocimetry to insect aerodynamics: measurement of the leading-edge vortex and near wake of a hawkmoth, Exp. Fluids. 40, 546-554.

Bomphrey, R. J., Lawson, N. J., Taylor, G. K., & Thomas, A. L. R. (2006). Digital particle image velocimetry measurements of the downwash distribution of a desert locust Schistocerca gregaria.

Taylor, G. K. (2007). Modelling the effects of unsteady flow phenomena on flapping flight dynamics— stability & control. In: R. Liebe, ed., Flow phenomena in Nature: a challenge to engineering design, Vol. 1, pp 155‐166, WIT Press, Southampton.

Taylor, G. K. & Krapp, H. G. (2007). Sensory systems and flight stability: what do insects measure, and why? Adv. Insect Physiol., 34, 231‐316.

Taylor, G. K. & Thomas, A. L. R. (2003). Dynamic flight stability in the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria. J. Exp. Biol. 206, 2803-2829.

Taylor, G. K. & Zbikowski, R. (2005). Nonlinear time-periodic models of the longitudinal flight dynamics of desert locusts Schistocerca gregaria. J. Roy. Soc. Interface 2, 197-221.

How good is research at University of Oxford in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 223.80

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