Profile image
By solidsmack (Reporter)
Contributor profile | More stories
Story Views

Last Hour:
Last 24 Hours:

Autonomous Robotic Bat Captures the Incredible Flight Pattern of a Real Bat

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 11:35
% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.


Three dudes from Caltech just designed the first robotic bat. Alireza Ramezani, Soon-Jo Chung, and Seth Hutchinson scored the cover article with their research published in the latest issue of Journal of Science Robotics, detailing the successful construction and flight of the multi-articulating, adaptive flapping of our favorite flying mammal.

Modeled after the species, Rousettus aegyptiacus (the Egyptian fruit bat), the robot does indeed look and move like a bat–Well, a creepy, mechanical, translucent bat. The crew claims it is among the agilest of flying robots ever built. They also claim that because it’s so light and squishy, it poses far less risk to humans than quadrotors and other rotorcraft.

If you’ve ever been interested in how bats fly or advanced robotic motion, the research is nothing short of amazing. The group was inspire by the insight and applications of flapping aerial robotics and the inherent challenge.

From an engineering perspective, understanding bat flight is a rich and interesting problem. Unlike birds or insects, bats exclusively use structural flexibility to generate the controlled force distribution on each membrane wing. Wing flexibility and complex wing kinematics are crucial to the unrivaled agility of bat flight.

A carbon-fiber framework is the bones of the bot. The skin stretched over those bones is a custom fabricated, 56-μm silicone membrane. Loaded with sensors, an 8-channel receiver, four coreless DC motors, five magnetic encoders at each joint and controlled by an ST microcontroller, the whole package weighs a mere 93 grams (0.20 pounds). It’s also autonomous–no wires, no remote control. To determine the sophisticated movement, they looked at the changing flight pattern of bats, extrapolating and grouping them into three dominant degrees of freedom (DOF).


B2’s flight mechanism consists of the left and right wings, each including a forelimb and a hindlimb mechanism. The left and right wings are coupled with a mechanical oscillator. A motor spins a crankshaft mechanism, which moves both wings synchronously dorsoventrally while each wing can move asynchronously mediolaterally. The hindlimbs that synthesize the trailing edge of the wings can move asynchronously and dorsoventrally. If it were not for mechanical couplings and constraints, the morphing mechanism of B2 would have nine DOFs. Because the physical constraints are present, four DOFs are coupled, yielding a five-DOF mechanism.

Obviously, simple fabrics or nylon films would not work for the skin. They realized the limb movement defined the shape of the wings during flight and that any membrane used would impart a moment of intertia across the flapping axis and affect the torque output due to additional tensile forces. To solve this, the team constructed a custom, highly-durable, silicon-based membrane to match the elastic characteristics of a biological bat wing.


To produce an ultrathin and stretchable skin, we used two ultraflat metal sheets with a 10-μm flatness precision to sandwich our silicone materials. This ensures an even and consistent pressure distribution profile on the material. We synthesized a polymer in which two components—one containing a catalyst and the other containing polyorganosiloxanes with hydride functional groups—began vulcanization in the laboratory environment… [adding] hexamethyldisiloxane, which reduces the thickness and viscosity of the silicone, in an experimentally determined ratio

While this little guy mimics the biology and kinematics of a real bat, it can’t actually take off by itself yet. For now, testing involves two different flight manuveuers: a banking turn, a swoop and a dive. They launched the bat by hand, and even though this affected the flight somewhat, the batbot compensated and stabalized within the first 20 wingbeats, matching commands to adjust the pitch and yaw for the various manuevers.


The paper is a fascinating read, with the result revealing some very interesting findings on dynamics and control, design scheme and material science. There is supplemental material on the project, including videos and other data captured in the tests. You can view this material here.




The post Autonomous Robotic Bat Captures the Incredible Flight Pattern of a Real Bat appeared first on SolidSmack.

Read more about CAD, product design and related technology at


We encourage you to Share our Reports, Analyses, Breaking News and Videos. Simply Click your Favorite Social Media Button and Share.

Report abuse


Your Comments
Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

Top Stories
Recent Stories



Top Global


Top Alternative




Email this story
Email this story

If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.