Insects On Airplanes

Insects stuck to an airplane

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

In a previous post, I discussed wing modifications designed to minimize airplane collisions with insects. Insect debris stuck to the outside of airplanes creates drag and reduces fuel efficiency. Instead of wing modification, NASA is trying another approach: put a “non-stick” coating on the airplane so insects that do collide with the airplane bounce off rather than stick. NASA scientists use Drosophila (“Fruit” Flies) flies to test the coating. They place flies in an “air gun” that causes the insects to collide with a surface at about 150 mph. They hope to find a coating that will prevent the insects from sticking. Needless to say, few insects survive the test.
The NASA video is below:

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.
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4 Responses to Insects On Airplanes

  1. CollageMama says:

    For my tax dollars, I’d like NASA to use mosquitoes and fire ants.

  2. Andrew Loveless says:

    I’ve never thought about how many bugs collide with planes before and wouldn’t think stuck insects were capable of reducing airplane fuel efficiency. It seems important for NASA to test their new non-stick coating using other insects besides Drosophilia. Even though the material may be effective at preventing fruit flies from sticking, it may not work as well with other insects. I wouldn’t think that fruit flies impact planes often.

  3. Pingback: Insects Can Be A Drag | Living With Insects Blog

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