Micro Air Vehicles Inspired by Flying Animals Like Bats


Micro Air Vehicles Inspired by Flying Animals Like Bats


"Aerodynamic Characterization of Wing Membrane with Adaptive Compliance" by Oscar M. Curet, Alex Carrere Rye Waldman, and Kenneth S. Breuera

In this classroom learning opportunity, students will explore the fascinating world of membrane wings with variable compliance and their potential to enhance the maneuverability and performance of micro air vehicles, as well as their relevance to flying animals like bats. The activity will involve understanding the mechanics and aerodynamics of these wings through a hands-on experiment.

Membrane wings with variable compliance can greatly enhance micro air vehicle performance and are likely used by flying animals, like bats, for aerodynamic control. 


  1. Introduction: Share the infographic attached and discus the importance of wings in flying and how they come in various shapes and sizes. Explain that flexibility can affect how well something can fly.

  2. Materials: Playdough, straws, and paper.

  3. Wing Design: Instruct the children to make two paper airplane wings, one with a straw as a rigid support and the other with Playdough as a flexible support. Encourage them to shape the wings similarly.

  4. Flight Test: Have the children throw both paper airplanes and observe how they fly. Discuss the differences they notice between the two, such as how far they go or how stable they are.

  5. Experiment: Now, ask the children to reshape the flexible Playdough wing to make it even more flexible. Have them test it again and compare the new flight performance with the previous one.

  6. Discussion: Gather the students to discuss their findings. Ask them what they observed and why they think more flexible wings might be better for certain types of flights.


Thank you for sharing this resource! Could you share more about this history of this activity and what led to its development?

Modern technology often draws inspiration from the natural world, including animals, through a concept known as biomimicry. The study of biology and nature continues to offer valuable insights and solutions for a wide range of technological advancements. Here are a few examples of modern technology based on animals for our group members to reference:

  • Velcro: Swiss engineer George de Mestral was inspired by burdock burrs sticking to his clothes and his dog's fur. This led to the invention of Velcro, a fastening system consisting of two strips of fabric, one with tiny hooks and the other with small loops.
  • Sonar: Sonar technology used in underwater navigation and mapping is inspired by the echolocation abilities of dolphins and bats. They emit sound waves and listen for echoes to determine the location and distance of objects.
  • Bullet Train Design: The streamlined shape of the Shinkansen, or Japanese bullet trains, is inspired by the kingfisher bird's beak. This design minimizes noise and reduces air resistance.
  • Wind Turbine Blades: The design of some wind turbine blades is inspired by the shape of humpback whale flippers. This design allows for greater efficiency and reduced noise.
  • Gecko-Inspired Adhesives: Researchers have developed adhesives inspired by gecko feet, which use tiny hairs that create van der Waals forces to stick to surfaces. These adhesives are used in robotics and industry for gripping and climbing.
  • Robotics and Prosthetics: Advances in robotics and prosthetics often take inspiration from the biomechanics of animals. For example, robotic arms can mimic the dexterity and movement of human arms, while prosthetic limbs can be designed to replicate the motion of natural limbs.
  • Biomimetic Materials: Scientists are working on creating materials that mimic the self-healing abilities of certain animals, such as squids and axolotls. These materials have potential applications in medicine and construction.
  • Bio-inspired drones: Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be designed to mimic the flight patterns and agility of birds and insects, allowing for improved maneuverability and stability.
  • Ant-Inspired Algorithms: Ant colony optimization algorithms are used in computer science and engineering to solve complex optimization problems by simulating the foraging behavior of ants.