More From the Bat Bot Folks

The Bat Bot folks have a great article in Science this month, summarizing the challenges of replicating the flight of bats in biomimetic robots.

As I have said before, this bot is just plain cool! (And it goes to show that quadcopters are hardly the only way to do UAV.)

The article explains the “ridiculously stupid” complexity of bat wings and flight. It’s just nuts.

Fig. 1 Functional groups in bat (photo courtesy of A. D. Rummel and S. Swartz, the Aeromechanics and Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory, Brown University). Enumerated bat joint angles and functional groups are depicted; using these groups makes it possible to categorize the sophisticated movements of the limbs during flight and to extract dominant DOFs and incorporate them in the flight kinematics of B2. The selected DOFs are coupled by a series of mechanical and virtual constraints.
Fig. 1 Functional groups in bat (photo courtesy of A. D. Rummel and S. Swartz, the Aeromechanics and Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory, Brown University). Enumerated bat joint angles and functional groups are depicted; using these groups makes it possible to categorize the sophisticated movements of the limbs during flight and to extract dominant DOFs and incorporate them in the flight kinematics of B2. The selected DOFs are coupled by a series of mechanical and virtual constraints.

The Bat Bot is inspired by, but does not fully copy bat anatomy. They have developed wings that are very recognizably “batty”, including a special membrane to emulate the flexible bat wings.

Besides the crazy anatomy, bat flight is nuts. They propel themselves with a complex “morphing wing flight”, which requires a stretch wing membrane. In addition, bats often flap relatively slowly, which introduces challenges for the control systems; “a flapping frequency that is lower than or equal to its natural body response; as a result, it is often affected by nonlinear inertial and aerodynamic artifacts.” ([2], p. 5)

Now that they have a working bat bot, they have been exploring how to imitate the amazing flying behavior of biological bats. They have worked out a “banking turn” and “dive maneuver”, but are still working on how to land in an upside down rooting position.

This project is a great example of biomimetic design. By attempting to replicate the anatomy and behavior of biological bats, they have discovered engineering principles that enable new and unique robot flight. At the same time, the robotic system has shed light on bat behavior and evolution, and may open the way for experiments that further elucidate the biology of bats.

Really cool.

(And don’t you think B2 should combine forces with Verity Studios, and get some bats into Cirque du Soleil?)


  1. Rebecca Hersher, Bat Bot’ Flying Robot Mimics ‘Ridiculously Stupid’ Complexity Of Bat Flight, in the two-way. 2017: NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/03/513232878/bat-bot-flying-robot-mimics-ridiculously-stupid-complexity-of-bat-flight
  2. Alireza Ramezani, Soon-Jo Chung, and Seth Hutchinson, A biomimetic robotic platform to study flight specializations of bats. Science Robotics, 2 (3) 2017. http://robotics.sciencemag.org/content/2/3/eaal2505.abstract

 

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