Researchers Study Bat Flight for Potential Application in Future UAVs

Lesser Horseshoe Bat in Flight

Photo by Jessicajil/flickr

New research supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the U.S. National Science Foundation is looking into the characteristics of bat flight in hopes of unlocking their extraordinary aerodynamic capabilities for potential use in unmanned aerial vehicles.

A multidisciplinary team made up of biologists, engineers and computer scientists at Brown University have been studying bats in order to characterize their unique flight capabilities, specifically how their bones, skin, and overall wing motion come into play during flight.

Bats, in contrast with other in flying critters such as birds, have highly flexible skeletons and wings allowing them the ability to fly in dense swarms, to avoid obstacles, and to fly with such agility that they can catch prey on the wing, maneuver through thick rainforests and make high-speed 180 degree turns.

Using a wind-tunnel, high-speed cameras and motion capture technology, the researchers are recording bats in flight and dissecting the data to try to unlock the unique flight behavior.

Flight tests are also being done on mechanical models that replicate the bat bone structure and wing membranes to confirm the findings and for the possible future application in UAVs.

Can UAVs emulate bats’ flight capabilities? [Homeland Security News Wire via Dean Wiseman] & Bat Flight Research [Fluid Mechanics @ Brown]

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