Insects, birds and bats have amazing flight capabilities, and especially with respect to maneuverability natural flyers outperform any human-made flying device. This intrigued me so much as an aerospace engineer, that I specialized myself in the (bio)mechanics, aerodynamics and flight control of natural flyers (see Publications). For my PhD studies at Lund University, Sweden, I studied the aerodynamics of bird and bat flight (see Publications), and for my post-doctoral research at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, I studied the aerodynamics and control of flight maneuvers in fruit flies (see movie).
Now, as a tenure track researcher at the Experimental Zoology Group at Wageningen University I study the flight dynamics of malaria mosquitoes. Next to the fact that the malaria mosquito is the most dangerous animal in the world, it has also a very interesting flight system: mosquitoes beat their wings extremely fast, as some flying mosquitoes flap their wings 1000 times per second! But why they do this is not yet known, and so this is exactly what I am trying to find out. I do this by filming freely flying mosquitoes using an array of high-speed cameras. Based on the resulting video data I reconstruct the 3D wing and body movements of the mosquito, and use this to model the biomechanics and aerodynamics that underlie mosquito flight.