A University of Alabama study is underway, looking at whether butterfly wings might hold a key for improving flight for aircraft. The National Science Foundation awarded a grant of nearly $280,000 to study the tiny scales that butterflies have on their wings. The scales help the insects continue to fly, despite slow speeds.
Amy Lang is an associate professor of aerospace engineering and mechanics at Alabama. Lang, says the arrangement of the scales gives an aerodynamic benefit to butterflies. She says studies indicate a Monarch butterfly is able to fly long distances partly because of the scales, which help reduce the energy necessary to maintain flight. Lang says understanding butterfly wings may help lead to improved flight for miniature aircraft that can be used for military reconnaissance and surveillance.