If you’ve ever had a bat in your house then you’re certainly familiar with their unique flying ability and impressive agility. Bats possess unparalleled maneuverability and flexibility with more than 40 joints in their wings. Now, a team of scientists have taken their knowledge of bats and combined it with drone technology to create the Batbot, a new flying robot that could soon fly circles around existing drones.
A team of researchers from the University of Illinois have developed the new Batbot prototype that weighs only 3 ounces and mimics the flight pattern of real life bats. Unlike previous drones, the at Batbot flaps its wings for increased maneuverability and can glide to save energy. The robot has nine joints and measures less than 8 inches in length. Its wingspan stretches about a 1.5 feet, capable of flapping as fast as 10 times per second.
“Whenever I see bats make sharp turns and perform upside down, perching with such elegant wing movements and deformations, I get mesmerized,” said co-author Soon-Jo Chung, Professor of Aerospace at the California Institute of Technology.
The new bat robot could be more useful and efficient than existing drones at surveying disaster areas and construction zones. According to Seth Hutchinson, co-author of the study, the Batbot would have been perfect for traveling inside the severely damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.
The team reported their discovery in an article published in AAAS Science Robotics.
“Our work demonstrates one of the most advanced designs to date of a self-contained flapping-winged aerial robot with bat morphology that is able to perform autonomous flight,” said first author Alireza Ramezani, researcher at the University of Illinois. “It weighs only 93 grams, with dynamic wing articulations and wing conformations similar to those of biological bats.”
The project has taken 3 years to complete and cost roughly $1.5 million. The researchers worked in collaboration with a team from Brown University, who studied bat flight.
Written by Rory Arnold, Earth.com Staff Writer
Video Credit: Carla Schaffer/AAAS