This Bionic Flying Fox Soars Like a Real Bat

Robotics company Festo released its latest creation -- a flying robot inspired by a giant "flying fox" or fruit bat.
Shelby Rogers

While we might not see Festo's biomimetic robots lifting heavy loads, opening doors, or doing backflips, the robots are some of the most interesting ones around. One of the company's most recent oddities is showcased in a new video from Festo -- the BionicFlyingFox. 

The Flying Fox takes its inspiration from large fruit bats rather than the quadrupedal vulpine in the name. Festo invested into a light central structure so that the wings could carry the robot and stay aloft for quite some time. In order to support the body, Festo uses a soft yet flexible membrane to form the robotic wings. The membrane is actually made of a modified elastane material similar to a very strong Spandex that is airtight and won't rip or crease. 

The Festo Flying Fox can also fly semi-autonomously thanks to constant communication with an embedded motion-tracking system. The system uses two infrared cameras that sit atop a pan-tilt unit. This allows for those cameras to easily track the entire flight of the BionicFlyingFox from the ground. Those cameras use four infrared markers placed on the robot's legs and wing tips. 

Each time the robot flies, it gets 'smarter.' The images and flight patterns from the robot's cameras go to a central master computer which leverages machine learning to come up with better flight patterns and check its flying against pre-programmed paths. Those flight paths are constantly improved and then sent back to the robot.