Send In The Bats! Army-Sponsored Researchers Develop Bat-Sized Spy Plane

soldier on radio in iraq photo

photo: Soldiers Media Center

A new six-inch long robotic spy plane modeled on bats and developed with US Army money could really bring a new meaning to the "surveillance society". Oh...I get ahead of myself. Researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering have developed this teeny spy plane to gather video and sound in an urban combat environment and transmit that back to soldiers in real time. The green angle: It's powered by renewable energy.

COM-BAT robotic plane photo

photos: University of Michigan

Powered by 'Energy Scavenging' Solar and Wind
The COM-BAT's body is about six inches long, weighs about a quarter of a pound and uses about 1 watt of power. According to the University of Michigan the vehicle would navigate via low-power miniaturized radar. Its lithium battery would be recharged by "energy scavenging from solar, wind, vibration and other sources". The data it collects—audio from a number of microphones, video from a miniature video camera, data on nuclear radiation and potential biological or chemical warfare agents from specialized detectors—would be sent back to troops via radio signals.

Short or Long-Term Surveillance Roles
U-M describes the vehicle's potential role in combat:

The bat would be designed to perform short-term surveillance in support of advancing soldiers. Or it could perch at a street corner or building for longer assignments and send back reports of activity as it takes place.

A $10 million grant from the Army established the Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology (COM-BAT) at the University of Michigan, but work will also be done at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of New Mexico to develop this new surveillance device.

:: University of Michigan and :: EcoGeek
Solar-Powered Flight
'Hy-Bird' Airplane Powered by Solar PV and Hydrogen Fuel Cell, to Make Round-the-World Flight
Solar-Powered Aircraft Makes Three-Day Unofficial World Record Flight in Arizona
Zombie Robot Chair Reassembles Itself
This 'Bot is on the Hunt... for Spilled Oil

Related Content on