The Newest Superhero – BatBot

Today is Superbowl Sunday and the world is waiting at baited breath to see the outcome of deflategate.  In other news, a drunk drone operator crashed his UAV into the White House.  This is bad news for the robot industry as parnoia is sure to spread across the capital.  Now, the new drone “villain” is a versatile “Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot” or DALER.

DALER is the creation of  Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) inspired by Desmodus rotundas or the vampire bat.  This bat unlike Count Dracula as it adapts easily to different terrains by automatically changing shapes to quickly switch between walking to flying:

By studying and emulating the behavior of the vampire bat, the team created a wing covered in soft fabric that folds into a smaller space when on the ground and rotates around a hinge attaching the whegs to the body. This deformable and retractable wing morphology solves the issue in producing a drone capable of ambulation over ground due to the different center of mass requirements needed for flying and walking.

“The robot consists of a flying wing with adaptive morphology that can perform both long distance flight and walking in cluttered environments for local exploration,” said Ludovic Daler, lead researcher and Ph.D student at EPFL. “The robotʼs design is inspired by the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus, which can perform aerial and terrestrial locomotion with limited trade-offs.”

To achieve these limited trade-offs, the researchers experimented until they found the ideal distance between the center of mass of the drone and the axis of rotation of the wingerons, in order to improve energy efficiency. As a result, this optimum balance of masses allows the DALER to reach speeds of about 70 km/h (45 mph) in the air and around a 6 cm/s (2.5 in/s) on the ground, with a maximum step distance of approximately 6 cm (2.5 in).

The EPFL team believes that the versatility of a walking and flying drone would be of great assistance in helping to locate survivors in dangerous or unstable areas after a natural disaster. The researchers see DALER remotely deployed to an affected area, where it would fly to an area of damaged buildings or destroyed infrastructure and then land to begin walking around to find victims, thus leaving human rescue teams to concentrate their efforts on moving large amounts of people in open areas.


The researchers also claim that potential future developments of their drone will include possible hover capabilities and the ability to take off autonomously from the ground after a mission and to return to base automatically. The DALER is still in the prototype stage, and no announcement has been made as to any future commercial development.  The research was published in the journal Bionspiration and Biomimetics.

The big question is what do people fear more – Vampires or Drones?  If one wayward drone could send the Secret Service in hysteria around Washington, imagine the reaction from a hybrid vampire bot…

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