Awesome Robotics of Flying Batbots by Ed Webster
The concept is simple. Bats are marvelous flying machines. Their acrobatic agility and dexterity has fascinated scientists for centuries. But could researchers create Flying Batbots with the same flying ability as real bats? The answer is yes. And the results come from two research programs. A team from NASA and California Institute of Technology and from the industrial automation company Festo.
Festo’s Flying Batbots
Festo creates nature inspired robotics. It has designed robotic butterflies, ants, kangaroos. And now a flying robotic bat. They call it the Bionic Flying Fox. It’s awesome robotics and a work of art. The batbots fly semi-autonomously via machine learning. Researchers created the wings from film and elastic fabric stitched at 40,000 points. It has a lightweight frame. A system of gears and motors provide power and steering. It’s a complex flying machine composed of basic and simple materials. Quite a breakthrough.
NASA and Caltech’s Flying Batbots
Robotic scientists consider bat flight the Holy Grail of aerial robotics. That’s because of the wing/body complexity and aerodynamic performance. The NASA-Caltech team created batbots that can fly, turn and swoop just like a bat. Bats have the most sophisticated wings in the animal kingdom. 40 wing joints power their acrobatics and agility. That is why development of Batbots is so important for robotics. Previous attempts over the years have failed. Robo-bats were too heavy to fly.
The NASA-Caltech bats are very light weight, 3.3 ounces, with a wingspan of 18.5 inches. They’re composed of 3D printed plastic with a thin silicone skin. Scientists took a minimalist approach in building their robot. They focused on the key component parts empowering the beating of the bat’s wings. As a result, they include only shoulder, elbow, wrist joints and thighs in their robots.
Robo-bat flies at a speed of 18 feet per second and 46 feet per second when swooping down. Researchers’ next goal is building an energy-efficient, safer and softer winged robot to make it more user friendly.
Many Important Uses
Batbot is a multi-tasker. Researchers envision it as an aerial service robot to fetch objects for hospital patients and for the elderly. Also, working as a sentinel at construction sites. And, as a first responder at disaster scenes. There are more potential applications.
This is aerial, robotic “batmobile” innovation at the cutting edge of innovation. For more of our robotic posts, see https://innovation-gamechangers.com/2018/04/11/new-innovation-nasa-marsbees/
Also, DARPA http://www.darpa.mil
Ed Webster is a national business journalist and Executive Producer of Innovation-gamechangers.com https://innovation-gamechangers.com