Legend has it that modern day aeronautical engineers achieve high levels of agility in their designs by making the plane less stable and counting on computers and complex algorithms to keep the planes flying. This, to some extent is true.
The agility of a bat, for instance, remains the one goal designers look to reach, but still fall short, either due to lack of ways to study a bat’s flight behavior, or simply the lack of technology to implement the bits and pieces.
Designers can now simulate the coveted bat flight using a new 3-D printed robotic bat wing. This is a giant step toward the detailed study of how these mammals fly, an opportunity formerly dependent on several bat pets.
With the information gathered from these studies, aerodynamic researchers have more accurate guidelines on which to base their redesign of the flapping robotic wing.
During flight, bats use their wings to provide lift, thrust and maneuvering power. This might not be that different from other flying creatures. Though most birds use their tails to help in steering, bats can achieve super agility by simply using their wings.
Supported by arm bones and five-finger like digits, the elastic skin wings can span almost the entire bat’s body and stretch to an amazing 400 times their original size. This is not easy to replicate; mechanical simulations of the supporting framework would break at the “elbow joint” until designers added a cable, sort of a simulation of ligaments in normal body joints.
A closer examination of the bat’s wing support structure reveals a set of powerful muscles to prevent the bones from stretching past the breaking point.
With the new 3D simulations, aerodynamic designers who do not focus on the biological aspect of the bat flight may have solutions to the problem of actually studying live samples flying. However, the creation of realistic designs and the collection of realistic knowledge will demand that biology experts step in with explanations or biological solutions to how the wings remain intact in flight.
The full implementation of a robotic wing will open the prospects of using electrical energy to power operations that take place at aerodromes. This is a step toward a greener environment, but a vision still a ways from reality.
Edited by Braden Becker