published Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

University of Alabama research looks at butterflies

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A University of Alabama study is looking at whether butterfly wings might hold a key for improving flight for aircraft.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of about $280,000 to study the tiny scales that butterflies have on their wings. The scales help the insects stay aloft despite flying so slowly.

An associate professor of aerospace engineering and mechanics at Alabama, Amy Lang, says the arrangement of the scales leads to an aerodynamic benefit for butterflies.

She says studies indicate a Monarch butterfly is able to fly long distances partly because of the scales, which help reduce the energy needed for flight.

Lang says understanding butterfly wings may help lead to improving flight for miniature aircraft that can be used for military reconnaissance and surveillance.

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