The skeleton of the robotic bat uses shape-memory metal alloy that is super-elastic for the joints, and smart materials that respond to electric current for the muscular system. (Credit: Gheorghe Bunget, North Carolina State University)
From Science Daily:
ScienceDaily (July 8, 2009) — Tiny flying machines can be used for everything from indoor surveillance to exploring collapsed buildings, but simply making smaller versions of planes and helicopters doesn't work very well. Instead, researchers at North Carolina State University are mimicking nature's small flyers – and developing robotic bats that offer increased maneuverability and performance.
Small flyers, or micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs), have garnered a great deal of interest due to their potential applications where maneuverability in tight spaces is necessary, says researcher Gheorghe Bunget. For example, Bunget says, "due to the availability of small sensors, MAVs can be used for detection missions of biological, chemical and nuclear agents." But, due to their size, devices using a traditional fixed-wing or rotary-wing design have low maneuverability and aerodynamic efficiency.
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