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In this article, we describe how flying insects use vision for guidance, especially in the contexts of regulating flight speed, negotiating narrow gaps, avoiding obstacles, and performing smooth landings. We show that many of these maneuvers, which were traditionally believed to involve relatively complex and high-level perception, can be achieved through the use of low-level cues and relatively simple computation. We also describe tests of the effectiveness of some of these strategies for autonomous guidance of small-scale terrestrial and aerial vehicles in the contexts of corridor navigation, altitude control, and terrain following and landing. We also describe a novel, mirror- based imaging system that is tailored for these tasks and facilitates the requisite visual computations.
Date of Publication: September 2009