Scientists and researchers at the Swiss research institute EPFL developed a robot that looks like a bat a first glance. However, it does a lot more than just fly. The Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot or DALER for short – can walk in addition to flying. It has foldable wings, and those very wings can retract and allow the aircraft to amble along the ground. It can move pretty quickly, too. Researchers clocked the DALER robot at roughly 20m/s in the air, and then 6cm/s on the ground when it is walking. Ideally, researchers believe that this robot would function very well for searching through areas that are difficult to reach and research through traditional means. Like a bat, this robot could do a very good job of reaching those places that would otherwise be difficult to reach. Once the robot lands, it could then go through the motions of observing the region that it is investigating while walking.

If scientists and researchers were able to add additional instruments to this build, they would in-effect be able to take greater measurements of the landscape that the drone is looking at. Evan Ackerman of the IEEE Spectrum noted that “the other appeal of ground mobility is that it gives a winged robot the capability to land, reorient itself, and then take off again.” The team pointed out that the next step would be making this craft have the ability to hover in addition to merely flying, landing, walking, and taking off again. Being able to push the bat drone to that level would actually make it one of the most advanced pieces of technology – specifically for research – that have ever been created.

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However, the long-term impacts are obviously far exceeding simply research. The real world applications for recovery projects, accidents, and reaching places that simply cannot be reached by humans – on foot or by vehicle is something that many scientists have been toying with for years. This is simply the next generation of research coming to life, and this DALER project is a significant leap forward for the research team is Switzerland, who put this machine together. The team hasn’t issued any statements immediately regarding what the robotic craft will be used for or what the very next steps will be, but surely they will receive a lot of attention when they do make the next move.