Many insects determine their altitude by measuring how quickly the ground is passing beneath them, but __Drosophila__ adopts a separate technique -- it avoids crashing by flying at the same height as a nearby horizontal edge, according to a new study in __Current Biology__.
The virtual reality flight arena that Straw
and his colleagues used to film flies

Image courtesy of Andrew Straw
Lead author linkurl:Andrew Straw,; who studies neuroscience and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, found that __Drosophila__ uses horizontal edges created by bushes, tree branches, and the tops of rocks, for example, to fly at a steady altitude.Understanding how insects fly may help scientists understand how flight evolved and how their brains coped with the challenge, Straw said. The results may also assist in the construction of flying robots, he added.Straw and his team built a 3-D virtual reality arena to figure out what rules __Drosophila__...
Drosophila flying, filmed at 6000 frames per second using infrared illumination by Francisco Zabala & Michael Dickinson
A. Straw et al., "Visual Control of Altitude in Flying __Drosophila__," __Current Biology__ doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.07.025, 2010.

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