Soon-Jo Chung, associate professor of aerospace and Bren Scholar in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory research believe that their 3-oz. prototype of a drone that mimics bat flight will lead to safer flying robotics. As bats do exhibit some rather unique aerial acrobatics, they may actually be on to something.
Mimicking the flexible manner in which bats fly, the prototype may actually do a better and safer job getting into disaster sites and construction zones than drones with spinning rotors. As an example, it would have been viable for going inside the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
The Bat Bot has nine joints and measures slightly less than 8 in. from head to tail. Its thin-membrane wings span about 1.5 ft. It flaps its wings for better aerial maneuvers, glides to save energy, and dive bombs when needed. Eventually, the researchers hope to have it perch upside down like the real thing. What value the upside-down perching will offer has not yet been disclosed.
More work is needed, such as adding cameras and getting permission from federal agencies to fly them. Hutchinson says the bat robots could be flying around work sites and disaster zones within five years. It's already taken three years and cost $1.5 million, including a team of experts from Brown University who studied bat flight, Hutchinson said.
For more details, you can read the study titled A Biomimetic Robotic Platform to Study Flight Specialisations of Bats. In addition, you can watch a short video, just CLICK HERE.