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March 20, 2008

To the Batplane!

Posted: 10:55 AM ET

A robotic spy plane currently under development would be perfect for Batman – that is, if he were smaller than a paper clip.

Source: Eric Maslowski, research computer specialist in the University of Michigan 3D Lab

Researchers sponsored by the U.S. Army are not designing this small bat-like aircraft to have passengers. Instead, the six-inch-long plane will direct itself, collecting information in urban combat zones and sending signals to soldiers through radio, the University of Michigan News Service said.

Dubbed "the bat," this small autonomous aircraft would incorporate a navigation system and a tiny low-power radar to get around in the dark. Soldiers could get real-time information from the little robot as it perches on a building, for example.

The Army is joining forces with industry and academia to make the concept for the vehicle a reality. Each of four designated research centers has the mission of developing a different bat-like subsystem of the little robot.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, which received a $10 million Army grant for the project, say they expect to develop an autonomous navigation system 1,000 times smaller and more energy efficient than mechanisms currently in use. This would allow the plane to move by itself, without a third party directing it. They also expect to develop a communication system 10 times smaller than current technologies.

Live bats find their way around by generating sounds and using the echoes from those sounds to determine their distance relative to objects, as well as the size and direction of objects. This navigation system is called echolocation.

The robotic plane will also have auditory sensitivity, using small microphones to gather sound waves from different directions, that will enable sophisticated navigation in the dark. But this bat is not blind – researchers also envision the little aircraft to have stereo vision through small cameras.

The bat may also be able to determine whether there’s nuclear radiation or poisonous gas around, using special sensors.

–Elizabeth Landau, Associate Producer,

Filed under: Animals • robotics

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Patrick Anthony Drake   March 20th, 2008 1:14 pm ET


Mike   March 20th, 2008 1:50 pm ET

Topic is Change:
Just like the top executives at the oil companies are getting rich while the tax payers have to pay, or 1 trillion is spent in Iraq when this could have been better spent securing our nation LOCALLY (Which would create jobs!) and fixing schools and health care here.

The select few who run it are absolved of how it is run if it is run poorly and rewarded no matter what. How is this fair?? It’s not, should there be more ownership or rules that keep these people honest?? I say Yes!!!

We have the technology to set up windmills all over to generate electricity or solar power but we don’t because of all the lobbyist in DC who keep the oil companies going!

We can prosecute the rich CEO’s in the Mortgage industry, or Bank etc to keep them from doing white collar crime.

We can take power back from our president who wants to play cowboy and not give him so much power to make foolish decisions like going to war.

We can and we should but.

It will take everyone to get disgusted before a change takes place. But if the people keep ignoring it like Global warming, CEO’s running business into the ground and still getting rich, Presidents playing cowboy and hurting our country, etc etc then eventually the answer may be for those that do care to move to a different country where they take these problems serious and don’t pretend the individual is stupid and doesn’t see what is really is going on! The individual is getting squeezed while the small select few are prospering over this squeeze!! And those hurting are the sick with not health care, poor, and our earth etc!! We have to change the power and do is soon or America is not going to be a place of dreams anymore it will be a place of nightmares!!!

Jeff   March 20th, 2008 6:10 pm ET

Topic change:


Donald   March 21st, 2008 5:27 am ET

Ten Milion dollars for development, just to be brought down with a kid's shot gun.
They say the Hubble is getting too old to do its job. Why don't they turn it around a point it toward earth. They should be able to see anything they want with it. Heck maybe they will find Osama with the eye in the sky..It'll save us a ton of money.

Good point though Mike.

Patrick Anthony Drake   March 21st, 2008 10:03 am ET

Ten million dollars brought down is an admirable sacrifice in the process to assure less and hopefully no soldiers fall in battle if we must fight. Great points though.



Patrick   March 21st, 2008 11:12 am ET

Yeah maybe Hubble can find out where OBL is hiding... and where the WMD's mysteriously disappeared to.


Franko   March 22nd, 2008 5:35 am ET

Interesting google:
Gaston County motorcycle surveillance

Watch the CNN video

Miller   March 23rd, 2008 1:28 pm ET

Hell we know where Osama is hiding we just can't get the Pakistany government to let us go get him! Besides this is just to sweet not to like it think of what else those super small high tech items could do!

Alex Isaac   March 23rd, 2008 4:32 pm ET

Why is everyone focused on the funding aspect? Isn't it remarkable how the advancements in technology such as miniaturization, nano- and bio- technologies, artificial intelligence, and robotics, are all coming to an amalgamated head. What the Army should be thinking about next is combining other intelligence sensor systems to their platform, as well as develop a "swarming" effect (hundreds of these little guys jettisoned from a launch vehicle) and transformability (flying to walking, back to flying).

Mr. Spock   March 23rd, 2008 10:49 pm ET

One useful application for the bat would be to aid in locating missing hikers or climbers in the mountains, that are often difficult to reach in this type of terrain.

Frank   March 25th, 2008 1:20 pm ET

Anyways, yeah This is awesome, a smaller version UAV.

Sami   March 26th, 2008 3:35 pm ET

If the BAT is equipped with a friendly soldier identification tag ( worn by friendlies in battle ) and also IR emission sensors then maybe it can transmit live threat assessment data and enemy head count to the friendlies.

In any combat its got to be a blessing for friendlies to know exactly how many enemies are there before engagement.

Douglas Ramler   February 16th, 2016 6:03 am ET

Printing out an essay or paper, reading the first line and realizing there aren't any mistakes.AWESOME!

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