Bats---terrifying to some, but now they may be the inspiration to a new mode of flight. Researchers at Virginia Tech have been exploring how bats fly by flapping their wings and are now applying that knowledge towards the design process of small flying vehicles known as "micro air vehicles." In the Virginia Tech study of the hand membrane wings of fruit bats, the researchers conducted experimental measurements of the wing movements while the bats were in flight. They then used analysis software to demonstrate the relationship between wing motion and the airflow around the bat. They discovered that in order to maintain max agility to capture prey, the fruit bat continuously distorts wing size and shape during flapping.
However, research was just the first step in this team's work. They aim to deconstruct the complex motions of bat wings into simpler motions so that they can use them. The researchers aim to use them, at first to build a robot capable of flight similar to a way at bat flies. After the robot, the ultimate aim is to work on a vehicle that flies in a similar way, but can hold a person. While even the robot may be a year or two off, these researchers have already unravelled more about the secret to the bat's mysterious ability to fly than has previously ever been known.
The full study can be found at the following URL: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/pof2/26/2/10.1063/1.4864297?TRACKPRESS=BARDI