Scientists at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign design a drone based on the complex wing structure of bats. Jim Drury has more.
Bat Bot could change how future drones look. So say US engineers who based this UAV on the complex wing anatomy of real bats. SOUNDBITE (English) SOON-JO CHUNG, CALTECH ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF AEROSPACE, SAYING: "We know that bats can perform such amazing maneuvers like upside down perching and very rapid turning maneuvers, so we wanted to actually look at the bat flight as really the holy grail of these aerial drones." Unlike other drones, this three ounce robot has no blades. Its carbon fibre skeleton is covered with an ultra-thin, silicon-based membrane. Real bat's wings have 40 joints. Bat Bot makes similar movements with just nine 3D printed joints: four passive, five controlled by motors. The motorised joints operate independently, so the robot shifts and contorts its wings to move like its real-life namesake. SOUNDBITE (English) SOON-JO CHUNG, CALTECH ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF AEROSPACE, SAYING: "We are not proposing that all the drones in the future should look like a bat. What we are trying to say here is that maybe trying to understand some key flight mechanisms of a real bat, maybe we can translate some of them into the airplane or aircraft technologies." Its ability to navigate tight spaces could make Bat Bot useful in rescue missions.