Lessons from natural flight for aviation: then, now and tomorrow

Christina Harvey, G.C.H.E. de Croon, Graham K. Taylor, Richard J. Bomphrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


Powered flight was once a capability limited only to animals, but by identifying useful attributes of animal flight and building on these with technological advances, engineers have pushed the frontiers of flight beyond our predecessors’ wildest imaginations. Yet, there remain many key characteristics of biological flight that elude current aircraft design, motivating a careful re-analysis of what we have learned from animals already, and how this has been revealed experimentally, as well as a specific focus on identifying what remains unknown. Here, we review the literature to identify key contributions that began in biology and have since been translated into aeronautical devices or capabilities. We identify central areas for future research and highlight the importance of maintaining an open line of two-way communication between biologists and engineers. Such interdisciplinary, bio-informed analyses continue to push forward the frontiers of aeronautics and experimental biology alike.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb245409
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Aerodynamics
  • Biomechanics
  • Birds
  • Control
  • Bio-inspired
  • Insect


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