Fruit bats inspire tiny flying robots

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

flying bats
Look at his wings. Notice how they look like really long fingers?

It may seem basic enough, but understanding how a bat flies through the air is quite complex. Now, however, researchers used special software to decode the tricky flight pattern of fruit bats, and they plan to use this information to build “micro air vehicles”.

Bats have wings that come in several different shapes and sizes, but one thing that’s pretty common is their ability to cut skillfully through the air. These flying mammals are able to change flight mid-direction and catch prey with a simple twitch of their wings. Researchers wanted to know more about how the air flows around the wings, so they decided to study a fruit bat.

By using precise measurements and a special computer analysis program, the scientists were able to figure out how the air flows around the stretchy wings. According to their results, the small mammal expands its wings when the winds are favorable, but when conditions are unfavorable, the wings constrict. What surprised the scientists the most, however, was that the bats constantly change their wing shape with every flap.

Once the researchers learn more details about the bat flight process, they’ll use the information to build tiny wing-flapping robots.

Featured image courtesy of  josdiiri on Flickr. Image of bat in midflight courtesy of MathKnight on Wikipedia.