Well, drones aren’t just to meant for flying missions as there are plenty of Marine unmanned vehicles and ground ones that offer plenty of utility and enhanced range. These Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) are one of these flying machines that simply amaze us with their innovative design. Designed at the University of Southampton, England, the new drones have been heavily inspired from bat wings and the way they change their surface area in flight mode. Bats are the only mammals that are capable of actual flight, and thus, their anatomy and physiology is unique in the animal kingdom as it is composed entirely of muscles.
The MAVs mimic the movement of the bats using electrically active membranes that function as artificial muscles. These wings have the unique capability of reforming on their own in response to changing flight conditions. The membranes morph due to the difference in the voltages applied to them in different situations. It is just like Batman’s cloak that becomes rigid when a charge is passing through it so that he can use it to glide to his destination. This new design concept that has been realized in reality from the realms of science fiction means that these MAVs can travel greater distances due to the ability of the wings to adapt. Instead of adding parts and assemblies to make the wings modular, it is the first successful attempt at changing the dynamics of flight with a simple surge or drop in voltage.
Different types of these MAVs have been designed in the University labs. Some are as small as 15 centimeters across while the bigger ones may dwarf the Reapers and Predators currently in use by the military. They are expected to have a wide range of military and civil applications due to their unique abilities. The project was funded by the USAF and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Here is some early footage of the project: