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How bats could help tomato farmers (and the U.S. Navy)

Researchers are learning from the flying echolocators to improve undersea sonar and even harvest planning

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12:30pm, September 20, 2017
underwater shipwreck

BAT SIGNALS  The U.S. Navy uses sonar to image underwater objects and obstacles, such as this shipwreck in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. Taking inspiration from bats, naval researchers hope to get sharper images with smaller, cheaper sonar equipment.

Bats, with their superb ability to echolocate, are inspiring advanced technologies — from better Navy sonar to gadgets that might deliver packages or help farmers manage crops. And engineers aren’t waiting for neuroscientists to work out every detail of how the bats’ brains manage the task.

“We think we have enough information to be useful to us, to develop a bio-inspired sensor,” says research engineer Jason Gaudette of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport Division in Rhode Island. Like bats, the Navy uses sonar to find and visualize objects in the deep. But current versions are far less elegant than the flying mammals’ system.

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