Japanese researchers built a functional life-sized model of a butterfly. They did so in order to test their hypothesis on the flight mechanics of a particular species:
To prove that the swallowtail achieves forward flight with simple flapping motions, the researchers built a lifelike ornithopter in the same dimensions as the butterfly, copying the swallowtail's distinct wing shape and the thin membranes and veins that cover its wings.
Using motion analysis software, the researchers were able to monitor the ornithopter's aerodynamic performance, showing that flight can be realised with simple flapping motions without feedback control, a model which can be applied to future aerodynamic systems.
At the link, you can view a video of this machine in flight.
Link via DudeCraft | Photo: H. Tanaka and I. Shimoyama/Bioinspiration & Biomimetics