Virtual Insect Flight Simulator (VIFS)

Luca Schenato, Xinyan Deng, and Wei-Chung Wu
(Professor S. Shankar Sastry)
(ARO MURI) DAAH04-96-1-0341, (DARPA) F33615-98-C-3614, and (ONR MURI) N00014-98-1-0671

The goal of this work is the development of a software simulator (VIFS) for the flight of a micromechanical flying insect (MFI) inside a virtual environment. The final version of the simulator should eventually include several units to make it realistic: a model for the aerodynamics, a model for the dynamics, a model for the electromechanical architecture, a model for the sensors, and a set of flight control and path planning algorithms. We would like to add a graphical interface that would provide a visualization of the behavior of the MFI in the environment.

There are several reasons why it is useful to have a software simulator: it can (1) simulate insect body dynamics; (2) give a faster simulation of aerodynamics than scaled insect models; (3) be easily integrated with any elecromechanical and sensory system models; (4) provide insights to direct mechanical design, thus speeding up the fabrication of the real MFI; and (5) pre-train learning flight controllers, thus reducing the risk of damaging the real MFI.

The VIFS is decomposed into several units, each of them responsible of an independent task, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Virtual insect flight simulator (VIFS) architecture

L. Schenato, X. Deng, W. Chung Wu, and S. Sastry, "Virtual Insect Flight Simulator (VIFS): A Software Testbed for Insect Flight," IEEE Int. Conf. Robotics and Automation, Seoul, Korea, May 2001.

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