Spy ‘Bat-like’ Planes for the US Army

The University Of Michigan College Of Engineering, known for new inventions for advances in the energy industry, has recently been awarded a $10 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Army to develop a six inch robotic spy plane that bears a striking resemblance to a bat. The grant helped establish the University’s COM-BAT (Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology), thus re-establishing the U.S. Army as a world leader.

The COM-BAT is designed to provide short-term but real-time surveillance and feedback to soldiers in urban combat zones using a collection of sight, sound and smell sensors while running on 1 W of power. The Army is hoping that the spy plane could scavenge power from vibrations, wind and of course the sun, which the University of Michigan has a particular expertise in. The robot they believe is “to be 1,000 times smaller and more energy efficient than systems being used now.” The COM-BAT project will also be used to vastly improve other existing technologies like solar cells and navigation and communication systems, which the team already feels can be dramatically reduced in size.

The University of Michigan will work in a collaborative effort with the University of California at Berkeley and the University of New Mexico for developing a different system on the spy plane.

Though facing certain hurdles in finding a way to give the COM-BAT a usable amount of battery life between charges, the potential applications of this condensed technology are virtually limitless.