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Mechanical Characterization of Flight Mechanism in the Hawkmoth Manduca Sexta


Examining a biological flapping-flight mechanism as a mechanical system provides valuable insight related to the development and construction of Flapping-Wing Micro Air Vehicles (FWMAVs). This paper presents two methods for the mechanical evaluation of the biological flight mechanism in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta (M.sexta). A method for analyzing the static response of the thorax under vertical compression, representing the contraction of the Dorso-Ventral Muscles (DVMs) which power wing elevation, was developed and applied to characterize the relationship between the action of the DVMs and the subsequent thoracic compression and wing elevation. The results have been applied to the evaluation of Finite Element (FE) models of M.sexta’s thorax. In addition, nanoindentation was used to determine an average elastic modulus of 5 GPa for the tergal plate (or tergum) of the thoracic exoskeleton, an energy-storing component which bends during flight and supports one end of the DVMs and both ends of the DLMs.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Douglas Smith of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for financially supporting this effort.

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Correspondence to A. C. Hollenbeck.

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Hollenbeck, A.C., Palazotto, A.N. Mechanical Characterization of Flight Mechanism in the Hawkmoth Manduca Sexta . Exp Mech 53, 1189–1199 (2013).

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  • Manduca
  • Thorax
  • MAV
  • Flapping-wing
  • Nanoindentation
  • Bio-inspired