From Quadrotors To Bat Wings – What Next For sUAVs ?
” With a few exceptions, quadrotors are the go-to aerial robot when you need something small, fast, and maneuverable. This is because quadrotors are relatively cheap and easy to fly, and not because they’re the best aerial platform. In fact, you may have noticed that there aren’t a lot of rotary fliers in the animal kingdom—this is because (among other reasons) flapping wings offer high efficiency and incredible maneuverability as long as you’re able to manufacture and control them.
Those last two things are what make wings tricky for robots, which is why we don’t see nearly as many useful robot birds as we do useful quadrotors. Alireza Ramezani, Soon-Jo Chung, and Seth Hutchinson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Caltech have decided that making robot birds is just not tricky enough, so they’re working on something even better and even more complex: a robotic bat.”
” We’ve been keeping track of Bat Bot (B2) for the past few years; the researchers presented a paper on the robot at ICRA 2016 last year in Stockholm. Now B2 has made it onto the cover of the current issue of Science Robotics, and that’s cool enough for us to publish an update.”
” Bat wings are fundamentally different from bird wings, and it’s not just because birds have feathers and bats don’t. Generally, when roboticists design bird-inspired or insect-inspired robots, they use rigid approximations of the wings, or perhaps a few different rigid parts flexibly interconnected. Bat wings don’t work like this at all: The underlying structure of a bat’s wing is made up of “a metamorphic musculoskeletal system that has more than 40 degrees of freedom” and includes bones that actively deform during every wing beat. The wing surface itself is an “anisotropic wing membrane skin with adjustable stiffness.” This level of complexity is what gives bats their unrivaled level of agility, according to the researchers, but it also makes bats wicked hard to turn into robots.”