Researchers develop flying, walking bat bot

Swiss researchers based their new land-air robot on the common vampire bat. 

A team of Swiss scientists have come up with a rather batty solution to land-air robotics.

Led by PhD student Ludovic Daler, researchers at the Swiss technological institute EPFL have developed a flying robot that is also capable of walking on solid ground.

In the air, DALER (Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot) can reach speeds of 20 meters per second – just a few hairs short of the fastest drones on the market. But upon landing, its wings fold to form crude legs. It crawls at a measly 6 centimeters per second, but given the small number of functional land-air robots, that’s actually pretty impressive. The DALER’s design is based on the unique morphology of Desmodus rotundus – otherwise known as the common vampire bat – which can walk using the tips of its wings.

“D. rotundus doesn’t look very pretty when it walks,” according to an EPFL press release, “but it has certainly perfected the art of using all four limbs for two purposes.”

Not unlike a certain bat-themed vigilante, this bot might have a heroic purpose. EPFL researchers hope to eventually use DALER on rescue missions, according to the release:

“The DALER can be remotely deployed to fly to an affected area, and then can walk through a disaster zone (e.g. a damaged building) to locate victims, meaning that human rescue teams can concentrate their efforts where they are needed, rather than using time to search for victims in a dangerous environment.”

Unlike other drones, DALER must be launched manually. But some rescue missions would require the robot to land and take off multiple times. To that end, researchers intend to add new features to the DALER – including independent take off and hovering capabilities.

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