Insects provide attractive models for micro aerial vehicle development because they achieve robust flight performance in cluttered and unstructured environments despite the relatively limited neural capability of their sensing, actuation, and control structures when compared with vertebrate flight. What feedback strategies do insects incorporate to regulate themselves to desired trajectories? We investigated this question by digitizing the flight of freely-flying fruit flies (Drosophila hydei). Three high-speed digital video cameras were used to digitize wing and body kinematics, from which sections approximating stabilized were extracted. Inverse optimal control techniques were applied to examine the composite function of the insect’s integrated sensorimotor feedback. This control extraction technique provides progress towards combining the study of individual sensors and tethered laboratory responses by using untethered trajectory information to quantify the structure, performance, and optimal control targets of the integrated sensors and neural feedback.
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