Autonomous bat bot weighs 93g, flies like a bat

A team of roboticists from Caltech and Urbana-Champaign have built a biomimetic "bat bot" that uses nine joints to deform a foot-wide wing membrane to achieve breathtaking aerial maneuvers.

Biomimicry is a tough row to hoe: the weird solutions that are optimized by evolution have strange complexities that we rarely completely understand. But starting with nature's designs can yield amazing results — as with the Bat Bot, where the bat's normal complement of 40 joints have been replaced with a mere 9.

Each joint is 3D-printed and five are individually controlled motors. The bot's "bones" are made from carbon fiber while its wing membrane is a custom silicone-based material an incredible 56 microns thick. An onboard computer is used to steer the bot, but flight time is limited due to battery constraints and current prototypes are too fragile for real-world use.

The flying Bat Bot can swoop and dive like the real thing
[James Vincent/The Verge]

Engineers Build Robot Drone That Mimics Bat Flight
[Robert Perkins/Caltech]