Flying The Friendly Skies

Insects stuck to an airplane

Insect debris stuck to an airplane.
Photo: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt

For hundreds of millions of years, insects ruled the skies as the only flying animals. Since the evolution of flying reptiles, then birds, then bats, insects have been required to share. In the last century, aircraft have been added to the mix. Aircraft are not good at sharing. Millions of insect aircraft collisions occur daily that are not good for the insects or the aircraft. Insects are often killed outright when colliding with an aircraft. The debris from dead insects can attach to the aircraft and cause an increase in turbulence that lowers aircraft fuel efficiency. Aircraft wings made of carbon fiber have the potential to increase fuel efficiency by encouraging laminar flow and reducing turbulence. However, insect debris stuck to a carbon fiber wing would defeat the ability to reduce turbulence.

Space Daily reports on tests at the German Aerospace Center in Koln, Germany, that use special flaps to prevent insect collision with the aircraft. The flaps work on a similar principle to bug shields that are mounted on the front of cars. These devices force the insects up and over the windshield rather than colliding, thus keeping the windshield clean. On airplanes, the special flaps would force insects over the wings at low altitudes where swarms of insects are common. This would minimize insect airplane collisions and allow wings that reduce turbulence to operate as designed.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Environment, Insect Inspired. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Flying The Friendly Skies

  1. Pingback: Insects On Airplanes | Living With Insects Blog

  2. Kevin Yuen says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize colliding with insects would have an effect on planes performance since they are so small O.o…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh my god, I didn’t realize such small insects could have such a big impact on planes performance with them being so small.

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