Flying foxes — also known as fruit bats — have an elastic membrane that stretches from their fingers (they also have thumbs) to their toes, making them incredibly aerodynamic and agile while flying. For the engineers at Festo, a German automation company, bats are the perfect specimen for bioinspired drones.
The Bionic Flying Fox has a wingspan of more than 7 feet, is almost 3 feet long and weighs a little more than 1 pound, according Festo’s website. For comparison, living, breathing flying foxes sport wingspans of up to 6 feet. The bionic bat’s membrane, a knitted stretch fabric, comes together at about 45,000 points to create a honeycomb structure. Even if the membrane gets damaged, the semi-autonomous bot can still fly. It uses infrared cameras and machine learning for motion tracking and to make decisions.