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Natural lessonsWe think tiny creatures can teach us flight—and more.

A safer world, naturally

To build an unbeatable mini-plane, researchers at Case Western Reserve turned to one of nature’s most modest creatures: the moth.

With a six-inch wingspan, moths fly fast, make sharp turns, dive, hover and fly backward—feats that small manmade vehicles regularly flub. Through collaborations with the U.S. Air Force, Case Western Reserve researchers are convinced man-made moth models could become actual fly-on-the-wall spies.

But the moth isn’t the only tiny creature to inspire. Scientists discovered an insect’s own internal body chemistry can be converted to electricity. Others are testing artificial nervous systems modeled after those of cockroaches. And another team is working to create an earthworm robot that can creep through water mains to search for leaks.

Sometimes the best way to make a big breakthrough is to leave the lab—and see what’s outside in an entirely new light.

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