July 8, 2009

New military drone based on bats

U.S. researchers say they used real bats as the inspiration for a new type of military surveillance drone equipped with wings that flap.

The micro-aerial vehicle, developed at North Carolina State University, is used to monitor activities on the ground and detect biological weapons. It was designed with a lightweight skeleton and mechanical muscle system similar to a bat's and can be used to monitor movements on the ground or detect the presence of biological weapons.

We have used a shape-memory metal alloy that is super-elastic for the joints, designer Stefan Seelecke told Britain's The Daily Telegraph. The material provides a full range of motion, but will always return to its original position -- a function performed by many tiny bones, cartilage and tendons in real bats.

The newspaper said Wednesday the flying bat was designed to improve the maneuverability of micro-aerial vehicles. It is about the size of a real bat, runs on a solar battery and is self-guiding.

The project is still in the prototype stage.