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Robotics

A robot that flies like a bat

With articulated wings covered in a stretchy silicone, a 93-gram autonomous robot can mimic several of the complex aerial manoeuvres of bats.

Bat wings contain more than 40 joints that allow for a variety of intricate moves through the air. Earlier bat-inspired robots have been unable to get off the ground, and flying robots have been modelled on birds and insects. Bat Bot (pictured), built by Soon-Jo Chung at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and his colleagues, can fly straight, dive and do banked turns. The team identified and included the nine most important wing joints needed for the robot to make these moves, and covered the robot's skeleton with a thin silicone membrane that allowed the wings to fold and extend. Each wing can move independently, as can the leading and trailing sections of each wing.

The robot could be used to further study the mechanics of bat flight, the authors say.

Sci. Robot. 2, eaal2505 (2017)

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A robot that flies like a bat. Nature 542, 140 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/542140a

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