The original version of the Batcopter, designed for studying the flight characteristics of bats (Image: Kenn Sebesta)
There are millions of Brazilian Free-tailed bats living in caves across Texas, and every night, those bats are somehow able to swarm through the air without crashing into one another. The researchers at Boston University’s Intelligent Mechatronics Lab wanted to know what the bats’ secret was, so that it could be applied to the flight control algorithms for their autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In order to learn more, they decided to fly a remote-control UAV into one of these bat swarms, and record the creatures’ reactions with three ground-based high-speed FLIR cameras, and on on-board 3D HD camera. The craft that they used, named the Batcopter, is a classic example of seat-of-the-pants engineering.
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