05 June 2017
Scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Caltech, have built a new lightweight robot inspired by bats, that can manoeuvre to do complex aerial moves like taking dives and turns easily. The robot called Bat Bot has an advanced construction that makes it one of the most flexible flying robots.
Bat Bot is just 93-gram and has a 47-centimetre-wingspan and is able to replicate bat-like flight patterns. The robot can move its wings independently of one another and use asymmetrical motion to be able to make sharp turns and fly a twisted path.
The skeleton of the batboy is made from carbon fibre bones and it has 3D-printed ball-and-socket joints, which was covered by a soft, lightweight, durable silicone membrane that can change the shape of the wing structure in flight. The membrane also generates lift as the wings flap, which can conserve the power supplied by micro motors on the robot's back that makes it very attractive. The robot is also quieter than other drones, which makes it more suitable for environmental and wildlife surveillance.
“So during the down stroke, the flexible wing fills up with air,” said Seth Hutchinson, roboticist of the University of Illinois during a press briefing. And at the bottom of the down stroke, flexes back into place and expels the air, which generates extra lift. So that gives us extra time – flight time.”
"Bat flight," said researcher Soon-Jo Chung of Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during a press conference, "is the holy grail of aerial robotics."
The researchers are very optimistic about the Batbot and state that because of its lightweight and durable construction, the Bat-Bot could be used in the future to monitor construction sites and disaster areas, as well as provide robot surveillance in disaster areas.
“I am excited about the huge potential for using bat flight anatomy and biomechanics as bio-inspiration for small, silent and highly manoeuvrable micro-air vehicles,” said biologist Nicolai Konow of UMass Lowell.