back to article 'Metal muscle' memory-alloy robot flapper bat shown off

Boffins in North Carolina have announced that they are hard at work on a robotic bat which will have a skeleton made of "shape-memory alloy" and flap its wings using electrically powered "metal muscles". The palm-sized robothopter is intended for use as a military surveillance platform, or Micro Air Vehicle (MAV). The NCSU …


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  1. Tom 64

    this has to be...

    ...the coolest bit of kit I have seen in a long time.

    I bet the flight control software will be a complete bitch to perfect tho!

  2. Paul Hates Handles


    \m/ Metal Muscle! \m/

  3. James 101

    How many are there?

    "one of the top men in the field of robotic bats."

    Surely there can't be much competition...?

  4. phoenix

    Bats, Bats

    Another "Batty" Idea.

    Just had to get that in first.

  5. Steven Raith

    Mimetic polyalloy?

    Well, someone had to ask. What they have actually done is give Skynet a pet to distract it from it's human-toasting agenda.

    Terminator, because, well...

    Steven R

  6. Yorkshirepudding

    i for one...

    welcome our new bat terminator overlord

  7. Anonymous Coward


    If it bites me will I turn into a "vampborg"?

  8. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Please tell me it will have fangs :-)

    I WANT one, NOW! This has got to be the most insanely interesting toy in quite some time..


  9. Daniel Wilkie

    Is it just me

    That remembers these "Metal Muscles" sound awfully much like the system used in the powered armour so popular in the Sci-Fi genre...

    Couple that with the exoskeletons being developed, and the brainwave reading control systems, and I think I've sussed what DARPA are REALLY after....

  10. Rob

    WOW same tech as Battletech

    Anyone who's every been into the Battletech universe will know that the muscle's they've descibed are the same tech they descibe as muscles in the big war machines the universe is based around, although they use something like a polymer as the main material in the muscle but it still works on the same principal.

    (yup that's the coat there, the one with sad geek written on the back)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazing stuff...

    Metal that contracts when heated? New one on me...

  12. Lionel Baden

    this tech was developed quite a while ago

    i remeber watching a documentry on the telly about them using this to power subs silently

    the were no turbines or so on.

    Never heard about it after that.

    Same goes for implanting images directly into the brain (done at cambridge university) blind geezer was able to see colored lights.

    but then that was hushed up never found any info on it :/

    This will with no great suprise get buried and not be used for years prolly when im 60

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not a good idea for the future

    I dread the day this stuff becomes widespread.

    The first stupid battle that happens between some moderately powerful adversaries, over some pointless power play, will result in everything that looks like a bird or insect getting vaporised as a potential spy.

    Ecological catastrophe.

  14. ian 22

    What next?

    Flying monkey-bots? With frikken lasers on their heads?

  15. Elmer Phud

    Useless things

    Send these in to the battlefield and they won't get far.

    According to traditional Hammer films, all that's needed to distract them are a few women in diaphanous gowns tied to a rock.

    As soon as they are close enough, it's the garlic spray and they are finished.

  16. BlueGreen

    Why I read the reg

    " DARPA, the renowned US military mad-professor bureau which - were it a church tower - would surely offer a belfry hospitable to NCSU's memealloy metallo-muscle chiropter-thopteroids"

    ta Lewis

  17. Big Bear


    Great! Now to create the gyro, fusion engines, and, most importantly, neurohelmet!

    Mines the grinning ASK-7D Atlas.

  18. Owen Milton

    @this tech was developed quite a while ago

    It's still maturing, I've been keeping a lazy eye on it over the years. Most of the chemical reaction "muscles" have issues with speed and others had/have issues with durability and mostly with power. We've been able to make something bat-shaped that will flap it's wings for over a decade, just not fast enough to fly. If they can actually get the speed/power/durability enough to keep this little bat flying it'll be quite a step forward.

    See, even if it was working NOW we'd still be decades away from being able to use it to make 50' tall combat mecha, so it doesn't get the large sums of military research money. ;)

    I didn't keep up with the eye-implant, but I know they experimented with camera inputs... I suspect it ran into the same headache as most other cybernetic implant tech, the body REALLY does not like having bits jammed into it, and it becomes a pain to power and control.

  19. Anonymous Coward


    sounds like one of first steps toward a fully working battlemech!

    and i want one!

    now all they need is afully working fusion reactor...

  20. Anonymous Coward

    @ian 22 - Flying monkey-bots?

    Erm, did they have those in the Wizard of Oz?

    @Owen Milton - 50' tall combat mecha

    So Optimus will have to kick some 50' bat butt....

    I want to see the playmobile version please!

  21. WhatWasThat?


    Myomers were the polymer based, electro-resistive/reactive threads that served as "muscles" for the mecha.

    The key here is that to be useful, they *DO NOT* need to be particularly durable, just be able to last about 30 days in harsh environments. By being based on plastic, they are expected to be cheap; easy to fabricate - and easy to replace. They are already available for student research:

    Gyroscopes are easily procured or self-made (electric motor, magnets, Hall-effect componets, etc)

    And, in the fiction and game, you can install ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and use simple manual controls for the mecha.

    I think we are there, gentlemen. I hereby submit my request for funding!

  22. J 3

    one of the top men in the field of robotic bats

    "one of the top men in the field of robotic bats"

    You mean: the top man in the field of robotic bats, surely. That is his picture, right there.

  23. Booty003


    "chiropterthopter" I dont *think* I am a thickie but..........

  24. The elephant in the room
    Paris Hilton

    Defence against attack by robot bats

    "We're using an alloy that responds to the heat from an electric current. That heat actuates micro-scale wires the size of a human hair, making them contract like 'metal muscles',"

    Quick - someone invent an ice ray to counteract the heating current. Or maybe a heat ray would work equally well to send them out of control, and would be easier to engineer.

    Paris, because she likes a "metal muscel".

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