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Bat robot takes wing

Flexible silicone membrane helps make machine an agile flier

By
2:13pm, February 1, 2017
bat bot

BAT BOT  A silicone membrane stretched over a carbon fiber skeleton helps this bat robot perform aerial acrobatics.

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Fancy flight tricks are a breeze for a new flying robot. Call it an acrobat.

Bat Bot, a lightweight flier with thin silicone wings stretched over a carbon fiber skeleton, can cruise, dive and bank turn just like its namesake, researchers report February 1 in Science Robotics.

Such a maneuverable machine could one day soar up the towering structures of a construction site, flying in and out of steel beams to help keep track of a building’s progress, study coauthor Seth Hutchinson, a roboticist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a news briefing January 31.

Other aerial robots, like some drones, aren’t so agile, relying on four whirling rotor blades to lift off the ground, Hutchinson said. These bots also have trouble flying in the wind, because they can exert force in only one direction, he said.

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