Controlling roll perturbations in fruit flies

Tsevi Beatus*, John M. Guckenheimer, Itai Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Owing to aerodynamic instabilities, stable flapping flight requires ever-present fast corrective actions. Here, we investigate how flies control perturbations along their body roll angle, which is unstable and their most sensitive degree of freedom. We glue a magnet to each fly and apply a short magnetic pulse that rolls it in mid-air. Fast video shows flies correct perturbations up to 100° within 30 ± 7 ms by applying a stroke-amplitude asymmetry that is well described by a linear proportional-integral controller. For more aggressive perturbations, we show evidence for nonlinear and hierarchical control mechanisms. Flies respond to roll perturbations within 5 ms, making this correction reflex one of the fastest in the animal kingdom.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20150075
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number105
StatePublished - 6 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Biolocomotion
  • Flight control
  • Fruit fly
  • Insect flight


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