COM-BAT Robotic 'Bat' On Order From UM

COM-BAT (Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology) has been established with a $10 million grant by the U.S. Army. The intent is to bring an otherwise science-fictional bat-sized robotic spy plane to life.


(COM-BAT MAV takes flight (in CGI))

The bat-like MAV (micro air vehicle) would gather data from urban combat zones and transmit the information in real time to soldiers.

U-M researchers will focus on the microelectronics. They will develop sensors, communication tools and batteries for this micro-aerial vehicle that's been dubbed "the bat." Engineers envision tiny cameras for stereo vision, an array of mini microphones that could home in on sounds from different directions, and small detectors for nuclear radiation and poisonous gases.

The device would utilize a low-power miniaturized radar and navigation system to find its way around at night. Energy scavenging from solar, wind, vibration and other sources would be encouraged.


(UM COM-BAT sensors for bat-like robotic spy plane)

I'm wondering if UM engineers have read the source material for these little guys; they might want to start with the tracer birds from Roger Zelazny's 1980 novel Changeling:

The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye and the parabola ear followed the dragon-riders north. A series of the larger fliers followed it at well-spaced intervals, to serve as relay points for the spy broadcasts...

The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread. Had there been an eye to observe them, it might not even have noted their minute, tropism-like pursuit of the sun across the sky as they recharged their batteries for the night's flight.
(Read more about Roger Zelazny's tracer birds

Update 20-Mar-2008. As long as the U.S. Army is procuring, it might as well get the wristband viewer and controller from the same novel. Handy, no? End update.

Don't miss UAV Cloud Swift and the Tiny Spyplanes That May Recharge On Power Lines, both of which could teach UM engineers a few things about power scavenging.

Via Sensors for bat-inspired plane under development.

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