Microbat – Design

ambience: Microbat flapping


Over ninety years ago, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright brothers completed the first controlled aircraft flight, soaring for twelve seconds. In the spring of 1999, another milestone in the world of aerodynamics took place. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. We’re listening to the sounds of a microbat, a small flying device engineered by Professor Yu-Chong Tai and his team at the California Institute of Technology, assisted by UCLA and Aerovironment, Inc. Last spring, years of hard work, and multiple design innovations, paid off. The microbat flew for 18 seconds and set the world record for an electric flapping wing vehicle. It measures six inches across, and it’s so light that you could mail it for only 33 cents. But don’t let its size fool you.

“It has to contain, first, a battery, because that powers the whole thing, and then an electric motor that will turn electrical power into mechanical power. The electricity turns the motor, and through the gear box, the wings flap 20 to 30 beats per second.” And it’s this flapping motion that sets the microbat apart.

“The innovation of this kind of vehicle is that it’s totally different than fixed wing aircraft that engineers and human being=s are used to. Using flapping wings, you are using the air in a totally different way than we used to. So that’s really the innovation. There are many ways of using this thing, and one thing we really think a flapping wing aerial vehicle can do is superb maneuverability.”

We’ll hear more on the microbat in our next program. Please visit our website at nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Microbat - Design

A new aircraft the size of your palm is designed to maneuver into tight spaces and take pictures.
Air Date:10/24/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience: Microbat flapping


Over ninety years ago, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright brothers completed the first controlled aircraft flight, soaring for twelve seconds. In the spring of 1999, another milestone in the world of aerodynamics took place. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. We're listening to the sounds of a microbat, a small flying device engineered by Professor Yu-Chong Tai and his team at the California Institute of Technology, assisted by UCLA and Aerovironment, Inc. Last spring, years of hard work, and multiple design innovations, paid off. The microbat flew for 18 seconds and set the world record for an electric flapping wing vehicle. It measures six inches across, and it's so light that you could mail it for only 33 cents. But don't let its size fool you.

"It has to contain, first, a battery, because that powers the whole thing, and then an electric motor that will turn electrical power into mechanical power. The electricity turns the motor, and through the gear box, the wings flap 20 to 30 beats per second." And it's this flapping motion that sets the microbat apart.

"The innovation of this kind of vehicle is that it's totally different than fixed wing aircraft that engineers and human being=s are used to. Using flapping wings, you are using the air in a totally different way than we used to. So that's really the innovation. There are many ways of using this thing, and one thing we really think a flapping wing aerial vehicle can do is superb maneuverability."

We'll hear more on the microbat in our next program. Please visit our website at nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.