When coming up with new ways for robots to get around, engineers often look to the animal kingdom. We've seen robots that scuttle like tiny bugs and run like headless dogs, but this flapping, synthetic-skinned robot bat takes the top prize for creepiness.
According to Gizmodo, the 92-gram carbon fiber device was designed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to fly like a bat. The Bat Bot, or B2, consists of a 3D-printed skeleton and a thin layer of silicone skin that mimics the wing's membranes. Five motors power its life-like flapping motions, and instead of echolocation it uses a built-in microprocessor and sensors to navigate around a room.
The prototype is the result of a $1.5 million grant awarded to the researchers back in 2014. Bats were chosen as the model for the project because of their unparalleled agility and maneuverability in the air. Flying robots that are able to get around by flapping and gliding require less battery life than traditional rotor-powered drones.“When a bat flaps its wings, it’s like a rubber sheet,” Hutchinson said in a University of Illinois press release. “It fills up with air and deforms. And then when the wing gets to the end of its motion, that rubber wing pushes the air out when it springs back into place. So you get this big amplification of power that comes just from the fact you are using flexible membranes inside the wing itself.”
As you can see above, the Bat Bot's flight looks impressively close to the real thing, making it even harder to watch if you're not a fan of the spooky creatures.
Images courtesy of YouTube.