Pentagon developing stealthy sensors for bat-inspired spy plane

March 31st, 2008 - 2:48 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 31 (IANS) A tiny six-inch spy plane modelled on a bat would gather data from sights, sounds and smells in urban combat zones and transmit information back to soldiers in real time. University of Michigan (U-M) Centre for Objective Microelectronics and Bio-mimetic Advanced Technology (COM-BAT) will develop sensors, communication tools and batteries for the US Army for this micro-aerial vehicle that’s been dubbed “the bat”.

Engineers envision tiny cameras for stereovision, an array of mini microphones that could home in on sounds from different directions, and small detectors for nuclear radiation and poisonous gases.

Low-power miniaturised radar and a very sensitive navigation system would help the ‘Bat’ find its way at night. Energy scavenging from solar, wind, vibration and other sources would recharge the bat’s lithium battery. The aircraft would use radio to send signals back to troops, reports Sciencedaily.

“These are all concepts, and many of them are the next generation of devices we have already developed. We’re trying to push the edge of our technologies to achieve functionality that was not possible before,” said Kamal Sarabandi of the U-M.

COM-BAT also involves the Universities of California and New Mexico, one of the four centres launched by the army as a collaborative effort among industry, academia and the Army Research Laboratory to work toward this vision of a small, robotic aircraft that could sense and communicate.

U-M researchers intend to develop quantum dot solar cells that double the efficiency of current cells. The autonomous navigation system, which would allow the robot to direct its own movements, will be a thousand times smaller and more energy efficient than systems being used now.

They believe they can deliver a communication system that’s 10 times smaller, lighter and more energy efficient than today’s technologies.

The ‘Bat’ would be designed to perform short-term surveillance in support of advancing soldiers. Or it could perch at a street corner or building for longer assignments and send back reports of activity as it takes place.

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