Engineers at CalTech created a flying robot bat

A team of engineers from CalTech and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have created a robot whose aspect is inspired from the anatomy of bats. The tiny Bat Bot weighs 93 grams, has a wingspan of one foot, and can start flying by flexing, twisting, and expanding its small legs, shoulders, wrists, and elbows.

As expected, the engineers had to face a few difficulties in manufacturing the robot bat. Their level of precision had to be high in using the complex technology which proves more complicated than what they used in creating robots mimicking bird flight. Besides creating the control of the Bat Bot, they also had to obtain materials that accurately mimic the skin that covers a bat’s wings.

One might think they could have used modern lightweight materials that could make the loads of aircrafts more light, but these materials do not score so high when it comes to flexibility. When a bat flaps its wings, the tension of their skin varies and they switch from a tight state to a loose state and so on. This switch allows the bat to force the air away from its wings, thus each flap is more powerful.

Since they needed a flexible material, the engineers resorted to choosing a membrane made of silicon that provided this flexibility the Bat Bod needed to perform the complicated motions of a bat in flight. The engineers needed to obtain as accurate a motion as possible. The accuracy provides a balance in the amplification that is caused when the powerful down strokes of the bats’ wings combine with the flexibility of the skin.

Now you may wonder why this experiment is useful and what it has to do with flight or robotics. Soon-Jo Chung is an associate professor of aerospace at CalTech. He was one of the lead engineers that created the Bat Bot. He explained the utility of the flying robot.

In his opinion, the results of the experiment can have various impacts. After creating such a design, they now know that this technology is safer to use in the future building of flying robots. Also, the research can have a biological applicability, since they were offered an insight into the way in which bats fly.
Image Source: Flickr

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