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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a…Bionic Bat!

Couftesy of Festo

Festo, the automation leader known for its work on animal-inspired robotics, revealed a new creation on March 27: the BionicFlyingFox. In the past they developed a tentacle-like robotic arm, a bionic kangaroo and a dragonfly robot. BionicFlyingFox, inspired by bat, is a flying fox-like ultralight robot able to semi-autonomously move within in a restricted airspace.

Bats are the only mammals that can actively fly. They use their elastic membrane wings that are connected to their finger bones and feet. When they fly they control the curve of this membrane with their fingers, using it to make them aerodynamic. The BionicFlyingFox works in a similar way: it has an elastic membrane divided into sections stretching from its wings down to its feet controlled by its fingers with an autopilot system. Two infrared cameras on the ground detect the robot through four active markers attached to its legs and wing tips and send images to a central computer which studies the data and calculates the robot’s trajectories when it is in the air, much like an air traffic controller. Preprogrammed trajectories are saved on the computer, but the ideal wing movements needed to follow these instructions are calculated by the robot itself using decentralized intelligence. All a human has to do is control the robot remotely for takeoff and landing. The BionicFlyingFox has a wingspan of 228 cm for a body length of 87 cm and weighs 580 g.

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About the Author

Monica Hutchings is a Canadian writer and translator from Toronto who has worked on everything from technical descriptions to academic journals. She is our in-house copy editor.

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