While the bot was indeed modeled on a bat the researchers did not try to recreate Mother Nature's work to a T. While real bats have more than 40 joints on their wings, the Bat Bot designers wheedled their device down to nine joints controlled by micro-motors and designed to accommodate a small handful of dominant motions used by bats in flight.
The bot, for example, can dive sharply and perform sharp turns. Future plans also call for it to be able to perch, clinging to structures such as steel framing in construction.
Construction, in fact, is one of the applications for which flying bot could prove useful, the scientists said. The bat could monitor building progress, surveil work sites and help compare construction models with the structures actually being created.
The device, the team said, could be equally useful in emergency settings, where first responders might need to go places humans can't, such as tight enclosures with minimal access.
Finally, they added, even home users, such as those with disabilities or the elderly who live in multi-level homes, could find uses for a flying bot. The device could, perhaps, fetch medication or monitor activities in another room.
The Bat Bot isn't ready yet for real-world use, the scientists stressed. For now it is hand-launched to give it some speed and has performed its dives and turns in an indoor, controlled environment, for flights of up to 30 meters (98 feet).
So far, ground netting has protected the bot from damage caused by crashes. The team says it plans further work on the design, to ensure that the bot's electronics are protected, should an accident occur.
The team also will give the bat some spectacles soon.
"The plan, probably within the next year or so, is to get eyes on it. The eyes will be very, very lightweight cameras - basically a lens and a sensor, much like what's in your cell phone," study co-author Seth Hutchinson told Seeker.
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