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Robo-Bats With Metal Muscles May Be Next Generation of Remote Control Flyers


flying fox bat

Credit: iStockPhoto.com

North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers are developing a highly maneuverable bat-sized flying robot that could be used for a variety of purposes, including indoor surveillance or exploring collapsed mines or buildings. Doctoral student Gheorghe Bunget says the availability of small sensors means micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs) could be used for detecting biological, chemical and nuclear agents.

"We are trying to mimic nature as closely as possible, because it is very efficient," says NCSU professor Stefan Seelecke. "And, at the MAV scale, nature tells us that flapping flight — like that of the bat — is the most effective."

The researchers studied the bat's skeletal and muscular systems before starting development on a "robo-bat" skeleton using rapid prototyping technologies. The researchers are now completing fabrication and assembly of the joints, muscular system and wing membrane for the robo-bat, which should be able to fly using the same efficient flapping motion as real bats.

Seelecke says the key is the use of smart materials, including a super-elastic shape-memory metal alloy for the joints, which provides a full range of motion but will always return to its original position. Smart materials also are being used for the muscular system.

From North Carolina State University
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