bat flying

Bat-like robot navigates surroundings via echolocation

Image credit: DT

An autonomous robot that navigates the world like a bat using echolocation has been developed at Tel Aviv University (TAU).

The ‘Robat’ also uses this unique navigational method to map its surroundings.

Bats use echolocation to map novel environments, navigating them by emitting sound, then extracting information from the echoes reflected by objects in their surroundings.

Many theories have been proposed to explain how bats harness sonar in order to navigate, but few attempts have been made to build a robot that mimics a bat’s abilities.

The TAU robot uses a biological bat-like approach, emitting sound and analysing the returning echoes to generate a map of space.

“Our Robat is the first fully autonomous, bat-like bio-robot that moves through a novel environment while mapping it solely based on echo information,” said TAU graduate student Itamar Eliakim.

“This information delineates the borders of objects and the free paths between them. We’ve been able to demonstrate the great potential of using sound in future robotic applications.”

robat

Image credit: tel aviv uni

The Robat is equipped with an ultrasonic speaker that produces frequency-modulated chirps at a rate typically used by bats, as well as two ultrasonic microphones that serve as the Robat’s ears.

It classifies the borders and shapes of the objects it encounters with an artificial neural network, creating a rich, accurate map of its environment while avoiding obstacles.

For example, when reaching a dead end, the robot uses its classification abilities to determine whether it is blocked by a wall or by a plant through which it could pass.

Last year, University of Illinois researchers developed a robotic bat that uses soft, articulated wings to mimic the key flight mechanisms of biological bats. 

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