Deformable wing kinematics in the desert locust: how and why do camber, twist and topography vary through the stroke?
Walker SM., Thomas AL., Taylor GK.
Here, we present a detailed analysis of the wing kinematics and wing deformations of desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria, Forskål) flying tethered in a wind tunnel. We filmed them using four high-speed digital video cameras, and used photogrammetry to reconstruct the motion of more than 100 identified points. Whereas the hindwing motions were highly stereotyped, the forewing motions showed considerable variation, consistent with a role in flight control. Both wings were positively cambered on the downstroke. The hindwing was cambered through an 'umbrella effect' whereby the trailing edge tension compressed the radial veins during the downstroke. Hindwing camber was reversed on the upstroke as the wing fan corrugated, reducing the projected area by 30 per cent, and releasing the tension in the trailing edge. Both the wings were strongly twisted from the root to the tip. The linear decrease in incidence along the hindwing on the downstroke precisely counteracts the linear increase in the angle of attack that would otherwise occur in root flapping for an untwisted wing. The consequent near-constant angle of attack is reminiscent of the optimum for a propeller of constant aerofoil section, wherein a linear twist distribution allows each section to operate at the unique angle of attack maximizing the lift to drag ratio. This implies tuning of the structural, morphological and kinematic parameters of the hindwing for efficient aerodynamic force production.