A group led by Jane Wang, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the Cornell University College of Engineering, has untangled the intricate physics and neural controls that enable dragonflies to right themselves while they're falling.

“Insects are the most abundant species and were the first to discover aerial flight. And dragonflies are some of the most ancient insects,” Wang said. “Trying to look at how they right themselves in air would give us insight about both the origin of flight and how animals evolved neuro-circuitries for balancing in air and navigating through space. Dragonflies constantly make maneuvers, without following any obvious direction. It’s mysterious.” These insights can also be used by engineers looking to improve the performance of small flying machines and robots.

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