Bats Have Inspired a New Model of Drone
By: Raquel Zuniga
On January third of 2018, the Department of Defense announced that the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative, or DESI, began a competition for basic science grants to build a “new paradigms for autonomous flight, with a focus on highly maneuverable platforms and algorithms for flight control and decision making.” Another announcement was later released with more specific details, stating that they are looking for bat-like drones that can be powered with directed-energy beams.
In case you don’t know, drones in a military sense are named Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UVA) or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). The military uses drones instead of people when the situation is too dangerous or difficult. Another purpose of a drone is how long it can be used, which is about 26 hours if it is in “predator” mode, or armed, but 72 hours if unarmed. Also, drones are cheaper to use. A drone can cost 40 million dollars, but a fighter plane can cost 350 million dollars.
Fun fact: the CIA first tested an armed drone in 2001. The CIA used drones for spying until they were armed with hellfire missiles, which is known as a predator drone. The hellfire missiles are still used today.
The bird-like drones on the market today that for the everyday consumer can fly for just a few minutes, which isn’t useful for the armed forces. The Air Force believes that a more naturalistic design with more powerful and smaller sensors should make a “significant improvements in maneuverability, survivability and stealth over traditional quadcopter or fixed wing designs.”
The United States isn’t the first country to produce and use machines; China has produced robotic fish for about ten years now.
When the Air Force made the announcement for these bat-like drones, they also called for new research into airplane skins that can sense and transmit data from the environment they are in while also being able to allow high maneuverability. “To achieve robust, resilient, and energetically versatile agility and dexterity rivaling biological systems, robotic systems require breakthrough components featuring locally tunable material properties with embedded sensing and actuation.” The maximum amount for the grants is 6 million dollars.
Read the grant opportunity at: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=299112&source=GovDelivery