Back to overview

Implementation of novel behavioral read-out systems for the analysis of flight control in the fruit fly Drosophila

English title Implementation of novel behavioral read-out systems for the analysis of flight control in the fruit fly Drosophila
Applicant Fry Steven
Number 116353
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Institut für Neuroinformatik Universität Zürich Irchel und ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Information Technology
Start/End 01.08.2007 - 31.07.2008
Approved amount 75'028.00
Show all

All Disciplines (3)

Information Technology
Electrical Engineering

Keywords (11)

Drosophila; behavior; biomechanics; neurobiology; insect flight; aerodynamics; flight control; MEMS; microrobotics; high speed computer vision; reverse-engineering

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Flies possess a highly developed flight control system that provides them with the capability to perform robust stable flight, as well as exceedingly rapid and precise turning maneuvers. The control problems underlying insect flight attract the interest of an increasingly dynamic and inter-disciplinary research community. The fruit fly Drosophila provides a particularly suitable model organism for this endeavor, due to its rich behavioral repertoire and highly specialized physiology of the sensory systems and flight apparatus.

The goal of this project is to develop and apply three novel technologies to explore sensorimotor pathways in tethered flying fruit flies:

1) Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) force sensors,

MEMS sensors provide the opportunity to develop small and cheap sensors that allow high sensitivity and bandwidth measurements, and hence promise a quantum leap for data acquisition technology in biological experiments.

In our experiments, the fruit fly is held by the MEMS force sensor, which can measure the tiny and fast-varying flight forces.

2) A high-speed computer vision system to measure the wing kinematics

With the advent of extremely powerful and affordable digital electronics, the implementation of real-time read-out systems using digital hardware and software becomes a realistic option. The challenge is to make use of digital technology by virtue of its huge flexibility and comparatively low cost, while at the same time not compromising on the ability to provide data in real-time, the hallmark of analog electronic systems.

In our experiments, the wing motions of the fly are analyzed by a high speed computer vision system. The extracted wing parameters can be used to stimulate the fly.

3) A visual flight ‘simulators’ based on modular LED displays.

To study how insects react to changes in their environment, we have developed a special panoramic display, which can cope with the high visual update rate of the fly.

These new technologies are applied together to explore various control strategies and biomechanical aspects of insect flight.

The rigorous application of engineering technology and concepts in biological applications, and conversely the insights gained into the principles of biological control systems, likewise serve both research disciplines.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Name Institute

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
103910 New MEMS sensors for charcterizing flight biomechanics in the fruit fly 01.08.2004 Project funding
125419 Flight speed control in Drosophila: Behavioral analysis and biomimetic implementation 01.03.2010 Interdisciplinary projects