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Researchers Design Tiny Robotic Bat

Forget tiny airplanes or helicopters. When it comes to small-scale unmanned drones, bats are the way to go.

North Carolina State University researchers are in the middle of building a robotic bat — ahem, micro-aerial vehicle (MAV) — that can be used for surveillance, exploration and rescue work.

"We are trying to mimic nature as closely as possible because it is very efficient," mechanical engineering professor Dr. Stefan Seelecke said in a press release. "And, at the MAV scale, nature tells us that flapping flight — like that of the bat — is the most effective."

"Due to the availability of small sensors, MAVs can be used for detection missions of biological, chemical and nuclear agents," adds graduate student Gheorghe Bunget.

The fully assembled skeleton weighs less than 6 grams — about a fifth of an ounce — and fits easily into the palm of a hand.

Bunget and Seelecke are busy designing and making the robot's joints and muscles, as well as its all-important wing membrane. Bunget plans to present the research at a mechanical-engineering conference in California this September.

• Click here to read the full N.C. State press release.

• Click here for FOXNews.com's Patents and Innovation Center.