Scientists at the University of Michigan have been awarded a $10m grant from the US military to develop a 6in robotic bat to be used in surveillance operations.
The grant will pay for the university's new Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology (Com-Bat) which will build small robots that can be used in a variety of roles.
The robotic bat will use batteries, solar cells and even the vibrations of its resting place to generate and store power. It will be able to record pictures and sound from targets, and future models may even be able to record smells.
"Bats have a highly attuned echolocation sense providing high-resolution navigation and sensing ability even in the dark, just as our sensor must be able to do," said Bat director Kamal Sarabandi.
"These are all concepts, and many of them are the next generation of devices we have already developed. We are trying to push the edge of our technologies to achieve functionality that was not possible before."
The scientists envisage the bat carrying directional microphones, high-resolution cameras and smell or radiation detectors.
The 30-person Com-Bat centre will focus initially on the sensing organs of the bat before building a prototype.
The researchers envisage the device as a short-term surveillance tool or as something that would stay still for long periods before moving on to a new target.
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