Understanding insects' minds
Insects have only a rather limited brain in terms of size and volume. However when flying, they have developed rather astonishing capabilities of acquiring and processing visual data. Noisy and parallel visual cues are processed and appropriate reactions are triggerd with little delay allowing to maintain flight stability and avoid obstacles. In a cooperation with the Biorobotics group at the University of Marseille, we analysed the potential of using fly-inspired visual processing to safely guide a spacecraft to a landing site.
On the other side, we tested the limits of the insects' neuronal system by deliberately choosing a model organism which is not known to be an excellent flyer: the cockroaches. Instead of elegantly cruising through the air, they exhibit a rather cowardish behaviour and jump off elevated spots to search for shelters. This controlled but rather speedy descent was the motivation for the second study presented. Quantifying the emergency reactions of a non-specialized flyer and its supposedly simple controller would allow us to draw conclusions for a minimal system.