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June 7, 2017

‘Bat’ To The Future – A Weird Advance in Autonomous Flight Technology

Scientists and engineers have worked rigorously to develop a versatile aerial robot that mimics the flight mechanisms of…bats. Yes, bats.

Weighing only 93 grams, the Bat Bot (B2) is the reverse-engineered brainchild of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Caltech. This major advancement in autonomous flight technology could potentially have widespread application and positive outcomes.

A Feat of Flexibility

With ingenuity and innovation, the scientists and engineers have seamlessly translated biological features of bats into autonomous flight technology. When bats flap their wings, they are filled with air, change shape to accommodate it, and then push the air out as they snap back into place. The skeleton and silicone-based skin of B2 mimic that of actual bats, enabling it to reproduce bat-like motions and morph its structure midair. The silicone-based membrane was specifically designed with this elastic property in mind, as other conventional fabrics were not stretchable enough.

Bat Bot the Builder?

The possible applications of B2’s autonomous flight capabilities are diverse and numerous. One example is a supervisory capacity on construction sites. Construction sites are full of unique structures and are often a complex array of various textures and materials. An aerial robot with the ability to navigate small spaces, maneuver through inconsistent environments, and perch upon various materials (wood, steel, glass, fiberglass, pipes, etc.) would be extremely advantage in the monitoring of construction projects. The Bat Bot could fly around, record construction progress, relay the information, and compare it to the actual plans for the building. Projects often do not unfold as originally planned.

Bat Bot the Explorer?

Another excellent application of B2’s autonomous flight technology is in locations where human physically cannot go. Nuclear reactors where radiation levels are too high for humans, collapsed buildings, mine shafts, and other locations could be easily maneuvered by the dynamic, aerodynamic Bat Bot. B2 could be affixed with radiation detectors, 3D cameras, heat sensors, and other technologies necessary for the given task at hand.

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