By replicating bat flight patterns, Hutchinson and Chung expect the robots to have a longer battery power than rotorcraft robots, such as quadcopters and helicopters, because of their ability flap and glide instead of relying on constantly rotating propellers.
“We think we can build a dynamic structure that takes advantage of the flapping wing flight in a clever way to make it low-power,” Hutchinson said. “Also, you can imagine bats locking their wings and gliding. In principle, you can put one up in the air and have it circle around for a long time without spending much power at all. A quad rotor always has to be burning energy to stay in the air.”
It’s possible their robotic bats will be safer than other alternatives, as well. The speed with which the blades rotate on quadrotors poses a threat to workers on construction sites and people in general. Chung hopes that by implementing soft-winged robotic flight, human collisions with the robots wouldn’t cause injury in the same way a collision with a quad rotor would.
The team believes that this project has the potential revolutionize the industry of aerial robotics, and its functionality is not just limited to construction sites. Bat-inspired robotic flight has the possibility of being expanded into drone enabled package delivery, and various other systems.
“We think we can bring many benefits to robotics by using this biologically inspired architecture,” Hutchinson said. “We mean to make a robot that can have the same advantages in terms of performance, agility, and lifetime of flight as the biological thing.”
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