Visually guided strategies for flight through cluttered environments in insects – Sridhar Ravi

Sridhar Ravi
School of Engineering and Information Technology, UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Australia

Date(s) : 11/11/2020   iCal
10 h 00 min - 11 h 00 min

The natural habitat of insects that fly close to the Earth’s surface can be challenging to navigate. The terrain is seldom flat and unobstructed and instead it is complex, consisting of a plethora of natural and artificial features. Once airborne insects are likely to encounter obstacles in collision course and will be tasked with performing evasive manoeuvres. Insects are also small in size with tiny brains and thus, they are further constrained in the sensorimotor and neural apparatus that can be accommodated. Despite these challenges insects like bees display a remarkable ability to navigate through highly cluttered terrain. Several previous studies have revealed the significant role of vision and more specifically optic flow, in mediating navigation in unobstructed environments. In cluttered environments, the combination of stable sensing for obstacle detection and nimble manoeuvring for evasion poses unique challenges. In our study we presented bumblebees with various types of spatial clutter, from solitary obstacles to constellations, and sought further insights into their navigational “toolkit”. We analysed the finely resolved measurements of the head and body orientation of bees in free flight through the different environments that were also used to reconstruct the instantaneous visual field of the bees and estimate the optic flow in the different environments. In this talk I will present on how bees in free flight effectively decouple their sensing and motor systems and the salient cues used for performing canonical tasks such as obstacle detection and gap perception, and the manoeuvres performed for collision avoidance and navigating through tight spaces. Time permitting, I will also present on how bees also learn to avoid invisible obstacles.

Come along even if you are not into this stuff because there will be lots of cool highspeed videos!

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