Watch a new robot fly just like a bat

Forget drones. Think bat-bots. Engineers have created a new autonomous flying machine that looks and maneuvers just like a bat. Weighing only 93 grams, the robot’s agility comes from its complex wings made of lightweight silicone-based membranes stretched over carbon-fiber bones, the researchers report today in Science Robotics. In addition to nine joints in each wing, it sports adjustable legs, which help it steer by deforming the membrane of its tail. Complex algorithms coordinate these components, letting the bot make batlike moves including banking turns and dives. But don’t bring out the bat-signal just yet. Remaining challenges include improving battery life and developing stronger electronic components so the device can survive minor crashes. Ultimately, though, the engineers hope this highly maneuverable alternative to quadrotor drones could serve as a helpful new sidekick—lending a wing in anything from dodging through beams as a construction surveyor to aiding in disaster relief by scouting dangerous sites. The next lesson researchers hope to teach the bat-bot? Perching upside-down.