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The Army's $10M Spy Bat Still Too Big 199

Lucas123 writes "The University of Michigan's Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology (COM-BAT) is working on building a robot bat that would perform long-range reconnaissance for the U.S. Army, but U.Mich is currently struggling with miniaturizing components in order to make the bat small enough to be stealthy. 'The focus is to shrink down many electronics that while currently available would only be good if the US Army wanted, say, a 12-foot spy-bat.' Some components need to be 1,000 times smaller than they currently are. The Army's $10 million grant proposal calls for the bat to be six inches in length, weigh four ounces and use just one watt of power. The bat is supposed to be powered by a lithium-ion battery, charged by solar and wind energy, as well as simple vibrations."
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The Army's $10M Spy Bat Still Too Big

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  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @12:46PM (#22784582)
    Quick, Robin! Hand me the bat-bat!

    But seriously, why go with an ornithopter design? There's that excellent quote about AI's, "The question of whether a computer thinks like a person is as relevant as whether a submarine swims like a fish."

    Would not a conventional ultralight drone with battery-operated propeller work more effectively than flappy wings?
  • Re:Magic Charge (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bobb9000 ( 796960 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @12:54PM (#22784712)
    Since the article says it's supposed to be long-range, my guess is that the mission profile would be to sit somewhere out of the way and charge during the day, then do its recon at night. All of those methods are very useful, because it means the drone could stay in an area and continue to operate without human intervention nearly indefinitely.
  • by Bobb9000 ( 796960 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @01:00PM (#22784786)
    Depending on the wing design and control software, ornithopters can actually be a lot more maneuverable than fixed wing aircraft. If they want an ability to go indoors, fixed-wing is pretty much out, and helicopters both burn energy like crazy and tend to a bit more obvious.
  • Re:Let me guess (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @01:07PM (#22784878)
    It is cheaper to do raw research there. Actually it is not. They do not have the same knowledge, so are not capable of doing it the work. Yet. That is why they have a number of spies and students in the west. The goal is to get there by hook or by croak.
  • by megaditto ( 982598 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2008 @02:15PM (#22785776)
    US Military budget for 2007: 1.2 trillion USD (800M main +400M Iraq/Afganistan supplemental)
    US R&D budget for 2007: 0.1 trillion USD (includes health, energy, as well as basic research)

    What would be wrong with having these reversed? To put it in some context, the military budget equals to US$ 4,000 per each man, woman, or child in the United States, per year. That's a SHITLOAD of money. Which could buy you flying cars, cold fusion, cure for cancer, teleportation, and 200 year life expectancy off the start.

    Note that I am not even counting the many millions of (potentially) productive citizens tied up by the military playing the role of drones, and their potential contribution to our society.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.