Researchers Hail Bat-Like Robot as Holy Grail of Aerial Robotics

Researchers at the Coordinated Science Laboratory, University of Illinois and Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, California Institute of Technology have developed an autonomous bat-like robot named Bat Bot. Soon-Jo Chung, one of the researchers of Bat Bot, hailed this autonomous flying robot as “the holy grail of aerial robotics” during a press conference.

In a paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the researchers wrote, “Arguably, bats have the most sophisticated powered flight mechanism among animals, as evidenced by the morphing properties of their wings.” Bats have over 40 passive and active joints on the wings. From an engineering perspective, bats are unique as unlike insects and birds, bats solely utilize their “structural flexibility to generate the controlled force distribution on each membrane wing,” the researchers said.

According to the researchers, the bat-inspired aerial robot will offer insight into flapping aerial robotics as well as provide real-world impact on robotics applications where robots and humans share the same space. The current aerial robots with their rotor blades or propellers and high noise levels are unsafe for humans, the researchers added.

The newly developed autonomous flying robot – weighing only 93 grams – mimics the form and structure of bat wings. Bat Bot is inherently safe, according to the researchers, as it flaps at lower frequency (7 to 10 Hz), and its wings are primarily made of soft and flexible materials that allow collision with another object with little or no damage.