To study the aerodynamics of flapping flight, Dickinson’s Lab has developed a series of large robots, permitting them to quantify the forces and flows generated by flapping wings.
In designing these robots they make use of the principles of dynamic scaling, in which size, flapping frequency, and velocity of the robots, as well as the viscosity and density of the surrounding fluid, are chosen so that two dimensionless parameters (Reynolds number and reduced frequency) of the devices match those of the animals of interest.
In this case, Robofly has a given wingspan of 60 cm, the flapping speed is typically about 5 time flaps a second, and is immersed in 2 tons of mineral oil.
Six computer-controlled motors configure the three rotational angles of each wing. Even the wings are equipped with sensors for measuring aerodynamic forces and flow patterns are quantified using Digital Particle Image Velocimetr.
Sounds pretty cool to me. Something as small a fly is so full of sophisticated science.