Scientists have designed new wings – which are part of a growing trend known as biomimicry – for micro air vehicles (MAV), after looking at the flight of bats.
Biomimicry or biomimetics can be defined as the process of emulating the systems, models, and elements of nature to help solve complex human problems.
On Tuesday, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) – UK’s main agency for funding research in the physical sciences and engineering – stated that a new micro air vehicle (MAV), or micro aerial vehicle, was modelled after bat flight. The new MAV is more economical than previous micro air vehicles and can also fly longer distances, officials at the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council announced.
The wings of the new micro air vehicle were designed and built to act just like a bat’s wings, according to the scientists. They change their shape based on the forces that act against them and they do not flap.
Micro air vehicles are a class of Miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). This project is one of the first to analyse bat flight and then try and optimize it for drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), the scientists said. However, the new project is not the first of its kind; it is in fact part of the latest trend of biomimicry.
Erin Connelly, director of communications and outreach at the Biomimicry Institute, said that living organisms are able to show us how to develop our own products and materials. Currently, more and more scientists are inspired by nature, according to Connelly.
Research institutes all over the world – including the Biomimicry Institute in Montana – were inspired by the potential of biomimicry. The Biomimicry Institute – founded in 2006 – is a non-profit organization based in Missoula, Montana, which provides resources for scientists working in the field of biomimicry and it educates the public on the benefits that may come with biomimicry. The Institute’s site highlights examples of solutions that come from natural resources in areas like architecture, energy, and communication.
The Eastgate Building, an office complex in Zimbabwe, has developed an air conditioning system based on termite mounds which are built by mound-building termites or just mound builders (termite species that live in Australia, Africa, and South America), officials at the Biomimicry Institute said. Termite mounds manage to self-regulate their inside temperatures within one degree, while the outside temperatures vary from 37 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (about 2.77 to 42.22 degrees Celsius).
Rafael Palacios, lead scientist of the bat wing portion of the research project, said that he and his colleagues had to make sure that the new device could model the bat wings, effect of the electric field generated across them and the aerodynamic flows around them.
The findings from Dr. Palacious were then incorporated by the team of scientists into the micro air vehicle project. The MAV wings have electroactive polymers that are able to respond to electricity that changes the shape of the wings. By changing the voltage input, the scientists manage to control the MAV wings. The new design has already been tested at a coastal location and in wind tunnels.
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