Will Winged Robots Be Next? Bat Wings To Inspire Flying Robotics

Feb 19, 2014 10:08 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Robotics could soon be soaring--literally.

Scientific research has revealed that bat wings are a potential model for robot design, Science Recorder reported.

The flapping movements of fruit bat wings are a promising inspiration for "micro aerial vehicles" that could move with similar wing motions.

In the Virginia Tech study, the intricate bat wings were studied with "complex experimental measurements and computer-aided analysis."

More than 1,000 bat species have hand membrane wings that connect the bat's individual fingers through a flexible membrane, according to Science Recorder.

The researchers analyzed the bat wing movements for a report published in the journal Physics of Fluids, in an article titled "Straight-line climbing flight aerodynamics of a fruit bat."

"Bats have different wing shapes and sizes, depending on their evolutionary function.  Typically, bats are very agile and can change their flight path very quickly--showing high maneuverability for midflight prey capture, so it's of interest to know how they do this," said Danesh Tafti, the William S. Cross professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of the High Performance Computational Fluid Thermal Science and Engineering Lab at Virginia Tech.  "[The fruit bat] distorts its wing shape and size continuously during flapping."

Now that the researchers have gotten a better grasp on the bat's wing movements, the next move will be to break down the flying process to apply the steps to robotics.

The bat's wings has force coefficients that are "about two to three times greater than a static airfoil wing used for large airplanes," study co-author Kamal Viswanath said, as quoted by Science Recorder. "Next, we'd like to explore deconstructing the seemingly complex motion of the bat wing into simpler motions, which is necessary to make a bat-inspired flying robot."

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