Published: Fri, February 03, 2017
Research | By Kayla Price

Bat Bot: It's the 'holy grail' of flying robots

Bat Bot: It's the 'holy grail' of flying robots

A more-developer version could be used for the same sort of surveying tasks now being undertaken by small drones (like looking over a building site or even a disaster area), but the bat wing mechanism would offer greater power efficiency and more flexibility for maneuvering.

This unusual movement has been captured by the researchers at the University of IL and Caltech in their creation. The animal uses over 40 active and passive joints on its wings to fly, as well as the flexible membrane that stretches over its phalanges.

When it comes to building flying robots, there's a lot to be learned from the beasts of the air.

Weighing just 93 g (3.3 oz) and sporting a wingspan of about 0.3 m (1 ft), the Bat Bot mimics the flight mechanisms of its natural counterpart, driven by a small onboard computer and a series of sensors that allow it to fly autonomously.

Solving the puzzle of bat flight is not just an entertaining exercise.

"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", says Alireza Ramezani, one of the researchers on the project.

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These joints permit them to modify the shape of their wings which can move in various independent directions.

The way it flaps is also quieter and more efficient than other drones and flying robots, so the battery power of this drone could last longer. They used 3D technology to print out ball and sockets for the joints and used a silicone skin which is very durable.

Chung's team covered those joints with stretchable silicone-based membranes, a design which they said "best match the morphological characteristics of bat flight".

This energy conservation gives it one advantage over fixed-wing flying robots, such as quadcopters. They now can deliver packages, help in search and rescue missions and will even slice off your finger if your happen to touch one of their spinning rotors.

The Bat Bot has nine joints and measures slightly less than 8 inches from head to tail. However, B2 needs a little more time and some tweaking before it is ready for field work, the researchers said: its electronics now are too delicate to survive crashes, and improvements need to be made to its battery as well.

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