It’s a drone, but not as we know it.
This robot mimics the unique way bats fly. The researchers turned to bats for inspiration in its graceful flight.
“The main motivation for modelling our bat robot on biological bats is the agile and aggressive manoeuvring capabilities of biological bats,” says Professor Seth Hutchinson of the University of Illinois.
The bat robot flaps its wings for better aerial manoeuvres, glides to save energy and dive bombs when needed.
“The bat robot has a wingspan of approximately 15,16 inches, from head to tail he’s about 5-6 inches long. He’s powered by batteries that run five motors and those five motors control both the wing flapping, the wing folding, and then two independent legs that form the shape of the tail,” explained Huchinson.
Eventually, the researchers hope to have it perch upside down like the real thing, but that will have to wait for the robot’s sequel.
“The control of the bat is done by an operator, essentially using a joy stick in the same way you might remote control fly a helicopter,” says Hutchinson.
The three authors of a study released Wednesday (February 1) in the journal Science Robotics say this new robot prototype may do a better and safer job getting into disaster sites and scoping out construction zones than those bulky drones with spinning rotors.
It would have been ideal for going into the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
“The same kind of technology that we use for this kind of application we think could be used in disaster response. For example, you can imagine these kinds of robots exploring disaster sites like the Fukushima reactor where it’s not really possible to send humans in and because of the destruction, ground robots don’t really have a chance either. So we think there are a number of applications like this that are directly beneficial to humanity,” says Huchinson.
Its engineers say bat robots could be flying around work sites and disaster zones within five years
It’s already taken three years and cost
1.5 million dollars, including a team of experts from Brown University who studied bat flight from a biological perspective.