"Birds, bats and insects can fly in turbulent environments with fast,
unpredictable wind gusts," Wei Shyy, an aerospace engineering professor from
the University of Michigan, said. "Yet, they can react almost
instantaneously and adapt with their flexible wings."
Breuer and Shyy lead separate teams for the air force projects.
Officials said the research could lead to the design of micro-UAVs that
could fly through buildings or tunnels.
So far, officials said, micro-UAVs have been designed without
incorporating the mechanical properties of bats, birds and insects. They
said a key property was the ability of these creatures to fly in all
"They're not only lighter, but they also have more adaptive structures,"
Shyy said. "These natural flyers have outstanding capabilities to remain
airborne through wind gusts, rain and snow."
So far, the team led by Breuer has constructed engineering models that
mimic specific features found in bat flight. Shyy has focused on hovering
and forward flight modes of micro-air vehicles, particularly the link
between flexible wing structures and lift and thrust generation.
"If handled appropriately, flexible wing structures can delay stall,
enhance stability and increase thrust," Shyy said.