Dragonflies are incredible flying machines! They are the strongest flyers in the insect world. Compared to most other insects, dragonflies can fly further and higher than other insects. Their maximum flight speeds are 22 to 34 miles per hour (36 to 54 km/hour), depending upon the species, with an average cruising speed of about 10 miles per hour or (16 km/hour). Compared to the flight speed of a horse fly at 90 miles per hour (146 km/hour), the flight speed of a dragonfly is not considered particularly fast.
Dragonflies might not be fast, but they are spectacularly agile flyers. They can propel themselves upwards, downwards, backwards, forwards, side to side, and they can even hover in midair! This is due to the magnificent construction of their two sets of wings. Each wing can move independently of each other, allowing dragonflies to fly in all directions. Their wings are both strong and flexible, giving them the ability to curve, cut through the air and hover even in the strongest headwind.
The physiology of dragonfly wings facilitates their acrobatic flight. At the leading edge of each wing, dragonflies have a "wing mark" or pterostigma; it acts like a weight that helps stabilize the wing during flight. The weight prevents the ultrathin wings from vibrating which would interfere with the dragonfly's ability to glide quickly through the air. In addition, the strongest part of the wing is a long vein (costa) along the leading edge that allows the dragonfly to cut through the air during flight.
Dragonfly flight is powered by muscles that are attached to the base of each wing. These muscles control wing shape and wing angle. What is truly remarkable is that, at any one time, each wing can do different things, even using different methods to generate thrust! To achieve the desired flight pattern, dragonflies can: adjust wing shape, wing angle, move a wing more forward or backward from its usual position, stop one or two wings, or change the relative relationship between any two wings on either side of the body.