Modelling honeybee visual guidance in a 3-D environment

  • Portelli G.
  • Serres Julien
  • Ruffier F.
  • Franceschini N.

  • Optic flow
  • Computational neurosciences
  • Honeybee
  • Speed control
  • Biomemetics
  • Obstacle avoidance


In view of the behavioral findings published on bees during the last two decades, it was proposed to decipher the principles underlying bees' autopi-lot system, focusing in particular on these insects' use of the optic flow (OF). Based on computer-simulated experiments, we developed a vision-based au-topilot that enables a "simulated bee" to travel along a tunnel, controlling both its speed and its clearance from the right wall, left wall, ground, and roof. The flying agent thus equipped enjoys three translational degrees of freedom on the surge (x), sway (y), and heave (z) axes, which are uncoupled. This visuo-motor control system, which is called ALIS (AutopiLot using an Insect based vision System), is a dual OF regulator consisting of two interdependent feedback loops, each of which has its own OF set-point. The experiments presented here showed that the simulated bee was able to navigate safely along a straight or tapered tunnel and to react appropriately to any untoward OF perturbations, such as those resulting from the occasional lack of texture on one wall or the tapering of the tunnel. The minimalistic visual system used here (involving only eight pixels) suffices to jointly control both the clearance from the four walls and the forward speed without