Bats are one of the best flyers in nature – capable of flying for long periods of time, capable of flying accurately in midair and into very small spaces. However, so far, scientists have not fully understood how bats can fly so smoothly.
For the first time, engineers at the University of British Columbia captured the full complexity of bat flying in a three-dimensional computer model that could inspire future designs of better drones and other aircraft.
The researchers made a simple batwing from aluminum and exposed it to the flow of water in the wind tunnel to simulate the flapping, bending and torsional movement of bats in flight. By tracking and measuring the effects of these movements on turbulent airflow and aerodynamic forces around the wing, they were able to build a complete bat flight model.
Computer model, described in Computers and Fluids is the first full-fledged interpretation of the bat's flapping flight in wing geometry, said Rajeev Jaiman, a senior author of the study. Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from UBC.
"The previous numerical model of hitting flight was too simplistic or incomplete and did not have practical benefits," he added.
Batwings are very unique because they contain multiple joints and stretchable membranes that allow them to change shape and return to their original shape numerous times during flight, Jaiman explains.
"Although this wing deformation makes bat flying much more complicated than bird flight, it also makes bats an effective flying machine," he said.
The research team includes engineers from the National University of Singapore who plan to work with researchers at Brown University to develop a physical bat model.
"We will work to further optimize the tapping action," Jaiman said. “Once in place, we will have the basis for designing efficient, flexible, and automated bats – thinking that intelligent drones can fly as flocks and serve as a tool for business or emergency response.”
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