FLIES ARE OUTSTANDING aerialists, as anyone who has tried to swat a mosquito can attest. Flies can hover, move vertically, and even fly backward, tantalizing you with your inability to catch the little buggers. Most flies flap their wings over 200Hz or 200 cycles per second. A tiny fruit fly beats its wings once every 4 milliseconds — faster than neurons can fire.
Some research published this week investigates just how flies pull their acrobatics off. We've known for a while that flies have a "gearbox" that helps them rev up their wings. Research out this week identifies the location of the flies' clutch and transmission.
This is news because it's really cool, of course, but also because the better we understand biological systems, the easier it is to copy them. Human engineers use insects as inspiration for biomimetic robots, drones, and other machines. Insects have advanced degrees in materials science, physics, and mass production. Flies can measure pitch and yawand recalculate on the fly to correct their flight.