A team of engineers working at the University of Illinois and Caltech recently came up with a bot much inspired by bats. With a featherweight of just 93 grams, this Bat Bot boasts a wingspan of one-foot and can easily take a flight by flexing its wings. It is also capable of twisting and extending its wrists, legs, elbows, as well as shoulders. The control and engineering behind this development is a highly complex one. It demanded highest level of precision that could help the robots in mimic the bird’s flight. Apart from the challenges that were involved in creation of Bat Bot’s controls, the designers of ‘bot’ also faced great difficulty in sourcing the materials needed for copying the skin for bat wings.
The present day lightweight stuff may be of great help in lightening up the burdens of aircrafts but a huge gap is left when it comes to flexibility. As the bat is capable of flexing its wings, it also modifies the surface tension of the skin present between loose and tight states. This modification in shape permits the bats to down stroke and force the air away from its wings as the skin shifts from taught to loose. This increases the strength of every flap as the bat moves forward. But this is also a challenge because several lightweight materials like nylon or mylar fail to function under a strain of this kind.
In order to solve this issue, the team decided to make use of a silicon-based membrane that granted the required flexibility to Bat Bot so that it could articulate its wings when it needed to make complicated movements required for the flight. When they mimicked this motion in a precise manner, they were able to leverage the powerful amplification that takes place when bats fuse the down stroke of its arms with flexibility of skin. This research will have wide impacts over the future of flights as well as robotics. The same is explained by Soon-jo Chung, an associate aerospace professor at the CalTech, “This robot design will help us build safer and more efficient flying robots, and also give us more insight into the way bats fly”
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