The National Science Foundation along with the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research both want to develop a robotic bat. These two foundations funded research carried out by engineering scholars from several prestigious universities in the United States. The engineers seem to have done a good job of creating a prototype bat since the robotic bat is barely discernible from a real live bat, and it actually flies. So why would the military want to develop a robotic bat?
Researchers have been interested in developing robots modeled after particular animals found in the wild for quite some time, and many have succeeded. For example, there have been plenty of engineering projects that have aimed at creating robotic insects. It turns out, many animals serve as ideal models for the development of more sophisticated remote control technology that is meant to assist in search and rescue missions.
Buildings and various structures collapse around the world regularly, resulting in trapped people underneath mounds of rubble. Until now, search and rescue teams had no way of finding single individuals under tons of rubble. However, the robotic bat that has been developed recently is capable of flying through the narrow crevices located throughout piles of rubble in order to find injured people. Once the injured parties are located, only then can search and rescue teams begin to dig for survivors. Unless search and rescue teams know exactly where injured victims are located beneath rubble, these teams can easily cause even more injuries to victims. This is because without knowing where buried victims are located, rescue teams could possibly bury the victims even further underneath the rubble in an attempt to uncover and dig up injured individuals. Without a small remote control camera with sophisticated airborne maneuvers, victims of collapsed buildings are often without hope of rescue.
Despite the promising progress that engineers are making towards developing a prototype search and rescue-bat, there are still some improvements to be made before the bats become operational.
If I was stuck underneath rubble, the last thing that I would want to encounter is a bat flying towards me. I would bet that before victims buried in rubble realize that they are being rescued by a fake bat, the researchers and rescue teams monitoring the situation probably enjoy a good laugh in response to the initial reactions of the victims.
Do you believe that there are any other flying animals that are better suited as living models for the robotic development of agile search and rescue robots? Why a bat and not a bird as a model?