In this paper, we show how ”bio-inspired” robotics can benefit from a more generalized approach than case-by-case emulation. This generalization is obtained by investigating the design constraints found in biological organisms using a reverse-engineering approach. To achieve this, we have developed two novel technologies that are well suited to analyze the biomechanics and neural control in insect flight. First, we present a micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) force sensor for measuring flight forces. Second, we describe a 6000Hz high speed vision system for characterizing wing kinematics in real time. Finally, we integrate these technologies within a tethered flight ”simulator” for open and closed-loop investigations of sensory-motor pathways. Initial results are presented and future research perspectives are discussed.