Researchers Draw Parallel Between Flight of Drones and Long-Eared Bats

Recent findings on the flight technique of long-eared bats could be significant for the future development of drones, according to researchers from Lund University in Sweden.

Contrary to what researchers have previously thought, Christoffer Johansson Westheim and his colleagues at the university are now showing that long-eared bats are helped in flight by their large ears and body.

“We show how the air behind the body of a long-eared bat accelerates downwards – which means that the body and ears provide lift. This distinguishes the long-eared bats from other species that have been studied and indicates that the large ears do not merely create strong resistance but also assist the animal in staying aloft,” he explains.

According to the university, the findings highlight the evolutionary conflict between flying as efficiently as possible and eco-locating – i.e. discovering objects by sending out sound waves and perceiving the resulting echoes. Another discovery made during the experiments is how the bats generate forward motion when flying slowly.

“This specific way of generating power could lead to new aerodynamic control mechanisms for drones in the future, inspired by flying animals,” Westheim adds.

The experiments were conducted in a wind tunnel in which trained bats flew through thin smoke to reach a stick with food on it. Meanwhile, the researchers aimed a laser beam at the smoke behind the bats and took pictures of the illuminated smoke particles. The researchers measured how the smoke moved to calculate the forces generated by each beat of the bats’ wings.

The full scientific report can be found here.


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