Animal Flight Group

Dr Per Henningson, MSc PhD

Post-doctoral Research Assistant


Per Henningsson

Research interests

My research in the Oxford Animal Flight Group is focused on the aerodynamics and flight performance of flying insects.

The aerodynamic part is based on wind tunnel studies of both free-flying and tethered insects using Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) to visualize and quantify the airflow either behind the insect or over its wings and body.

The flight performance part is studied by letting the insect fly freely in a room and recording the 3D trajectory with high-speed cameras and calculating figures of merit, such as flight speeds, accelerations, turning rates, etc. The flight speeds measured from these experiments are also used to derive appropriate flight speeds for the wind tunnel experiments.

The research aims to contribute to the understanding of how different wing morphologies among insects relate to their aerodynamic performance and to the insects’ various ecological functions. Insects are faced with different ‘tasks’ that they need to solve; for example a bumblebee that needs to carry heavy pollen loads back to the hive, a dragonfly that needs to stay on the wing for most of its time in search of prey, or a moth that needs to be able to hover in front of a flower while feeding. The overarching hypothesis in this research is that all these various demands create selection pressures acting in different directions and that this is reflected in the insect’s morphology and aerodynamic performance.

The results from this research will form the basis of guidelines for task-specific Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) wing designs.

I have previously worked in the Animal Flight Lab at Lund University, Sweden as a PhD-student doing research on aerodynamics and flight behaviour of the common swift (Apus apus). Download thesis here.


tel. +44 (0)1865 271223, email:


Henningsson, P. and Bomphrey, R.J. 2011 Time-varying span efficiency through the wingbeat of desert locusts J. R. Soc. Interface.

Henningsson, P. & Hedenström, A. 2011 Aerodynamics of gliding flight in common swift. J. Exp. Biol, 214, 382-393.

Henningsson, P., Muijres, F. T. & Hedenström, A. 2010 Time-resolved vortex wake of common swift flying over a range of flight speeds. J. R. Soc. Interface, 8, 807-816.

Bowlin, M. S*., Henningsson, P.*, Muijres, F. T.*, Vleugels, R. H. E., Liechti, F. & Hedenström, A. 2010 The effects of geolocator drag and weight on the flight ranges of small migrants. Methods in Ecology & Evolution, 1, 398-402. (* Joint first authors)

Karlsson, H., Henningsson, P., Bäckman, J., Hedenström, A. & Alerstam, T. 2010 Compensation for wind drift by migrating swifts. Animal Behaviour, 80, 399-404.

Henningsson, P., Johanssson, L. C. & Hedenström, A. 2010 How swift are swifts Apus apus? J. Avian Biol., 41, 94-98.

Henningsson, P., Karlsson, H., Bäckman, J., Alerstam, T. & Hedenström, A. 2009 Flight speeds of swifts (Apus apus) : seasonal differences smaller than expected. Proc. R. Soc. B 276, 2395-2401.

Henningsson, P., Spedding, G. R. & Hedenström, A. 2008 Vortex wake and flight kinematics of a swift in cruising flight in a wind tunnel. J. Exp. Biol. 211, 717-730.

Lentink, D., Müller, U.K., Stamhuis, E.J., Kat, R., Gestel, W. Van, Veldhuis, L. L. M., Henningsson, P., Hedenström, A., Videler, J.J. & Leeuwen, J.L van. 2007 How swifts control their glide performance with morphing wings. Nature 446, 1082-1085.


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