Robot bat takes flight

Flight researchers have used the principle of biomimicry to create a drone that flies with flapping wings rather than propellers. Alireza Ramezani and Seth Hutchinson of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, along with Soon-Jo Chung, an associate professor of aerospace at Caltech, studied the anatomy of bats and how they fly to create the Bat Bot. (B2) They consulted bat flight experts Kenneth Breuer and Sharon Swartz of Brown University.

The developers of the Bat Bot (B2) wanted to mimic a bat’s flight dynamics because a bat moves through the air remarkably efficiently, in terms of use of energy. The flexibility of a bat’s wings allows it to amplify the power of the motion. Bats are some of the most sophisticated fliers in the animal kingdom. They use more than 40 interlocking active and passive joints that provide a musculoskeletal system that can change shape, and allows them to rapidly change direction in flight.

The creators of the Bat Bot (B2) made their robot with nine joints – five active and four passive – rather than 40. This structure, along with silicon-covered wings, are sufficient to mimic the motion of a bat in flight. The flexible nature of the materials make the Bat Bot (B2) more robust than a quadcopter, as it will not be harmed by the flapping wings hitting each other, and is better able to withstand collisions.

One of the first uses planned for the Bat Bot (B2) will be to inspect construction projects. The advantage that a flapping-wing drone has over one with propellers is that it can perch on parts of the structure without getting in the way of construction workers. This ability reduces energy usage and makes remote inspection more efficient. It can be difficult to make aerial robots hover in one place. Even mild wind can cause them to deviate from a stationary position.

A flapping-wing aerial robot emits less noise than one with propellers. If equipped with temperature, humidity and radiation sensors, the Bat Bot (B2) could have many applications which are propeller-driven aerial robots or humans.

About the Author

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Svilen Petrov
My name is Svilen Petrov and I’m founder and chief editor at Wings Journal. Wings Journal is an independent media, which provides you daily with the most interesting and actual news for air companies, airports, and aviation technologies.

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