A new self-contained robot that mimics the key flight mechanisms of bats has been developed by scientists.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Caltech have developed Bat Bot (B2) with soft, articulated wings that can mimic the biological bats.
“Our work demonstrates one of the most advanced designs to date of a self-contained flapping-winged aerial robot with bat morphology that is able to perform autonomous flight,” said Alireza Ramezani from the University of Illinois.
The robot weighs 93 grams, with dynamic wing articulations and wing conformations similar to those of biological bats.
The bats have a flight mechanism that involves more than 40 types of joints that interlock the bones and muscles to one another creating a musculoskeletal system that can change shape and is capable of movement in multiple independent directions, researchers said.
“We reduced those numbers to nine joints in the B2 robot. The compliant wings of a bat-like flapping robot flapping at lower frequencies are inherently safe,” the study mentioned.
According to the researchers, the robot utilises a morphing skeleton array and a silicone-based membrane skin that enables the robot to change its articulated structure in mid-air without losing an effective and smooth aerodynamic surface.
“When a bat flaps its wings, it’s like a rubber sheet. It fills up with air and deforms. And then, at the end of its down-stroke motion, the wing pushes the air out when it springs back into place. So you get this big amplification of power that comes just from the fact you are using flexible membranes inside the wing itself,” said Seth Hutchinson, professor at the University of Illinois.
Researchers said that B2 can also contribute biological studies on bat flight.
Researchers believe that B2 can be used to reconstruct flight maneuvers of bats by applying wing movement patterns observed in bat flight, “thereby helping us understand the role of the dominant degrees of freedom of bats”.
“Although these approaches can effectively analyse the joint kinematics of bat wings in flight, they cannot help understand how specific wing movement patterns contribute to a particular flight maneuver of a bat,” the paper published in AAAS Science Robotics noted.