A universal strategy for visually guided landing

Baird, Emily, Boeddeker, Norbert, Ibbotson, Michael R. and Srinivasan, Mandyam V. (2013) A universal strategy for visually guided landing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 46: 18686-18691. doi:10.1073/pnas.1314311110

Author Baird, Emily
Boeddeker, Norbert
Ibbotson, Michael R.
Srinivasan, Mandyam V.
Title A universal strategy for visually guided landing
Journal name Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0027-8424
Publication date 2013-11-12
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1314311110
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 110
Issue 46
Start page 18686
End page 18691
Total pages 6
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Language eng
Subject 1000 General
Abstract Landing is a challenging aspect of flight because, to land safely, speed must be decreased to a value close to zero at touchdown. The mechanisms by which animals achieve this remain unclear. When landing on horizontal surfaces, honey bees control their speed by holding constant the rate of front-to-back image motion (optic flow) generated by the surface as they reduce altitude. As inclination increases, however, this simple pattern of optic flow becomes increasingly complex. How do honey bees control speed when landing on surfaces that have different orientations? To answer this, we analyze the trajectories of honey bees landing on a vertical surface that produces various patterns of motion. We find that landing honey bees control their speed by holding the rate of expansion of the image constant. We then test and confirm this hypothesis rigorously by analyzing landings when the apparent rate of expansion generated by the surface is manipulated artificially. This strategy ensures that speed is reduced, gradually and automatically, as the surface is approached. We then develop a mathematical model of this strategy and show that it can effectively be used to guide smooth landings on surfaces of any orientation, including horizontal surfaces. This biological strategy for guiding landings does not require knowledge about either the distance to the surface or the speed at which it is approached. The simplicity and generality of this landing strategy suggests that it is likely to be exploited by other flying animals and makes it ideal for implementation in the guidance systems of flying robots.
Keyword Flight control
Three-dimensional surface
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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