Microbat – Nature

ambience: Microbat flapping


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s a plane that flies like a bird, and it’s just about the same size. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

We’re listening to the sounds of a new type of aircraft called the microbat. It measures about six inches across, weighs only about as much as a nickel, and it’s modelled after bats, insects and other creatures that flap their wings to fly.

Yu-Chong Tai is a Professor of Electrical Enginering at the California Institute of Technology

“We actually designed this whole thing according to nature. We surveyed a lot of natural flyers, including hummingbirds.”

Joel Grasmeyer is an aeromechanical engineer with Aerovironment, Incorporated, who’s worked with Professor Tai’s team to help develop the microbat.

“Right now, this vehicle flies forward at about ten miles per hour. It climbs up to about 20 feet and then kind of glides down as the battery is wearing out. And we’ve been very humbled by seeing what nature can do versus what we can do. So we’re taking a lot of the ideas from nature and trying to simplify them down to mechanisms and wingshapes that we can actually build and get to work. If you look at a hummingbird in gusty wind conditions, it can hover perfectly still in front of a flower, and yet with that same body and same wings it can fly all the way across the Gulf of Mexico. And that shows the potential of flapping wings, and we’re just on the very early stages of getting to that point. We’re trying to make a small bird or insect that’s controllable, and that can carry a small camera. So you could fly this into places where humans can’t go, where it’s too dangerous or too small. An extreme example is the airducts in a burning building, to see if people are inside.”

Microbat - Nature

Scientists have designed an aircraft that flaps its wings like a bird and weighs about as much as a nickel.
Air Date:10/25/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience: Microbat flapping


It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's a plane that flies like a bird, and it's just about the same size. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

We're listening to the sounds of a new type of aircraft called the microbat. It measures about six inches across, weighs only about as much as a nickel, and it's modelled after bats, insects and other creatures that flap their wings to fly.

Yu-Chong Tai is a Professor of Electrical Enginering at the California Institute of Technology

"We actually designed this whole thing according to nature. We surveyed a lot of natural flyers, including hummingbirds."

Joel Grasmeyer is an aeromechanical engineer with Aerovironment, Incorporated, who's worked with Professor Tai's team to help develop the microbat.

"Right now, this vehicle flies forward at about ten miles per hour. It climbs up to about 20 feet and then kind of glides down as the battery is wearing out. And we've been very humbled by seeing what nature can do versus what we can do. So we're taking a lot of the ideas from nature and trying to simplify them down to mechanisms and wingshapes that we can actually build and get to work. If you look at a hummingbird in gusty wind conditions, it can hover perfectly still in front of a flower, and yet with that same body and same wings it can fly all the way across the Gulf of Mexico. And that shows the potential of flapping wings, and we're just on the very early stages of getting to that point. We're trying to make a small bird or insect that's controllable, and that can carry a small camera. So you could fly this into places where humans can't go, where it's too dangerous or too small. An extreme example is the airducts in a burning building, to see if people are inside."