Scientists are once again drawing from their tried-and-true muse, nature. This time, bats are the subject, since their precision and long-duration flying could help develop more nimble drones and aerial vehicles.
To accurately study their source of inspiration, University of British Columbia (UBC) engineers brought a bat’s flight into a 3D computer model. To accomplish this feat, the team built an aluminum bat wing that mimicked flapping in a current-filled wind tunnel, according to the university.
A complete computer model was developed by measuring the wing’s surrounding aeromechanical forces, and how turbulent air flows affected movement.
Rajeev Jaiman, UBC professor of mechanical engineering and the study’s senior author, says the model is also the first to clearly illustrate “the flapping flight of bats in terms of the wing’s geometry in motion.”
“Previous numerical models of bat flapping flight were too simplified or incomplete to be of real practical benefit,” Jaiman adds.
Next up, the team will develop a physical bat model, with the help of the National University of Singapore and Brown University researchers.
“We’ll be working to further optimize the flapping motion,” says Jaiman. “Once this is in place, we’ll have a foundation for designing efficient, agile, automated bats—think smart drones that can fly as a flock and serve as tools for business or for emergency response.”
The computer model is described in, “A novel 3D variational aeroelastic framework for flexible multibody dynamics: Application to bat-like flapping dynamics,” published in Computers & Fluids.
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