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Do bats hold the key to the next generation of drone technology?

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Bats – long vilified in fairytales or onscreen for sucking people’s blood or being carriers of a bunch of scary diseases may help engineers take UAV technology to the next level.

What the..?

According to Science Nordic, researchers from the University of Lund in Sweden are examining slow-motion footage of bats flying to learn more about exactly how they move through the air.

Bats fly in such a unique manner, it difficult to observe with the naked eye. According to the research team, not much is yet known about bats method of flight as they navigate the open skies.

In order to learn more about how bats fly, the researchers trained bats to fly in wind tunnels (yes – really). They enticed the bats to fly against the wind and make sudden turns by holding forth a delicious worm on a stick which the bat chased after. The bats were recorded using high-speed cameras and a particle image velocimetry, a technique for measuring air currents.

What did they learn?

The Swedes were mainly looking to learn just how drones were able to quickly change direction midair while chasing their prey. They learned that when a bat made a quick turn, the upward flap of the wings was equally as important as the downward stroke. At first glance, a bat’s flight would seem to share little commonality with the way the drone moves. If scientists develop a better understanding of flight movements that occur in nature, that could lead to engineers to improve the next generations of drones to move faster, smoother and with less wind resistance through the air.

Per Henningsson is a biologist in the Department of Biology at Lund University and one of the lead researchers on this project. He told Science Nordic:

“The challenge for the drone industry is largely about control and stability in the air, and enabling drones to avoid obstacles. In this context, our results are very relevant.” – Per Henningsson.

You can check out a video of the drones being tested below.

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