A small team of scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Caltech have designed a flying robot inspired by the physical structure of bats. The project is aptly named Bat Bot, incorporating the complicated mechanics of bat flight. It seems like the researchers have finally cracked the secret behind bat wings. It is something that is considered to be the “holy grail of aerial robotics” in the scientific world.
Even though aerial robots are not new to the advanced era of technology, robots that mimic the wing functions of bats are. This is because unlike bees or other insects, bats use over 40 active and passive joints on its wings to fly. They also have flexible membrane that stretches over its phalanges.
Bat Bot Mechanics
Bat Bot is a robot that weighs just 93 grams. It resembles a flying bat because it keeps it simple. Instead of recreating all the minute details of bat wings, it minimizes the number of joints and focuses on achieving maximum flexibility. They reduced the number of joints to just nine by eliminating out the less important ones. Hence it boiled down to just five active and four passive joints, including shoulder, elbow, wrist and tail joints, CNET reported.
As a result, Bat Bot can maneuver its robotic wings independently, unlike similar biomimetic robots, which end up being clunky. With the help of asymmetrical motion, it can swerve left and right, and even make frequent sharp turns. Also, the incredibly light weight of the robot worked to its advantage, especially since a heavier model would have hampered its motions.
What Makes Bat Bot Better Than Other Aerial Devices?
The joints were made of 3D printed ball and sockets. These were attached to a skeleton made of carbon fiber bones. The joints were covered with a soft, lightweight, durable silicone membrane just 56 microns thick.
With the help of the membrane, the Bat Bot could change the shape and structure of its wings. This enhanced the aerodynamics of the wings and acts as a natural lift-up for the entire robot. Consequently, it minimized the pressure or burden on the micromotors placed on the bat’s back.
Some of the advantages that the Bat Bot enjoys over fixed-winged aerial devices such as quadcopters, is that it conserves far greater energy. Also, a Bat Bot tends to be noiseless. These properties make it ideal for environmental and wildlife surveillance. It can also be used for search and rescue missions mainly because of its ability to fly close to high rise buildings. The only thing that a Bat Bot is yet to achieve is learning to hang upside down like a real bat, Science Magazine reported.