Adrian Thomas discusses the mechanics of flight

BBC Radio 4's regular programme, The Life Scientific, today features Professor of Biomechanics and LMH Fellow, Adrian Thomas, talking about the mechanisms behind flight in the animal kingdom. Professor Thomas's interest in how bodies become, and remain, airborne goes beyond the laboratory. As a young man, he took up paragliding in order to better understand the mechanics of flight, and is now a champion of the sport, as well as a Professor of Zoology who specialises in the dynamics of insect flight. As part of his research, you might find him in a wind tunnel designed to study insects, rather than the more typical commercial jet applications. Using lines of smoke and high speed video cameras, he measures exactly how different insects flap their wings. He uses bio inspiration, or observing how nature achieves mechanical results, to inform the invention of machines to perform the same tasks . Most recently, he's created a drone that's inspired by a dragonfly. This light robot can accelerate rapidly in any direction and, because it has flexible wings rather than traditional rotary blades, it glides when the battery runs out of power, rather than plummeting to the ground. Other upcoming projects include plans to devise a wheelchair inspired by the movement of a spider, and a boat which has a fin rather than a rudder. 

The radio programme is current available on BBC iPlayer

Professor Adrian Thomas