Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bat Bot - ROBOS

Bats have long captured the imaginations of scientists and engineers with their unrivaled agility and maneuvering characteristics, achieved by functionally versatile dynamic wing conformations as well as more than 40 active and passive joints on the wings. Wing flexibility and complex wing kinematics not only bring a unique perspective to research in biology and aerial robotics but also pose substantial technological challenges for robot modeling, design, and control.

The creatively named “Bat Bot” comes from roboticists at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It’s not the first to imitate bat biology in pursuit of aerodynamism, but a number of new techniques put it at the head of the pack, or rather colony.

One advance is the skeletal structure of the robot’s wings. The team took a middle road, identifying only the most important joints and motions, allowing them to imitate bat-like maneuvers while keeping the mass under 100 grams.

Another thing that sets bats apart is the fact that the material making up their wings is highly deformable, and they use that to their advantage. Any artificial wing that doesn’t stretch and billow like the bat’s membrane is missing out on a key characteristic of its flight style. So the researchers made their own silicone-based imitation bat skin only 56 microns thick — about half the width of a human hair.

Between these and a lot of hard work studying the minute movements that go into every little bat flight pattern, the team was able to recreate three motions: straight flight, a banking turn and a swooping strike (it struck the safety net, anyway). With its wings flapping up to 10 times per second, the bat flew at 12 MPH and dove at over 30 MPH.

The researchers envision bat-like bots, lightweight and agile, performing duties around humans, where heavier drones with high-speed rotors might not be welcome: hospitals, construction sites, homes.

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