Meet “Chirocopter”: A drone that flies within swarms of bats

Wildlife biologists have designed a drone
that can hover within swarms of bats
as they zip across the nighttime sky.
The drone is equipped with a microphone
to record echolocation chirps
and a thermal camera
that can “see” bats’ body heat.
The microphone is insulated with foam
that allows it to pick up high-pitched chirps
over the noise of the drone
and prevents it from reflecting back the chirps.
Similar technology has been used to record bats
from the ground and from towers,
but the chiro-copter has the advantage
that it can be placed anywhere in 3D space.
In testing, the team maneuvered the drone
to hover in the middle of a bat swarm
In one 84-min recording, they recorded
at heights ranging from 5 m to 50 m.
There were so many bats
that they recorded 46 chirps/minute.
By monitoring swarms from the air,
the researchers hope that they’ll be able to figure out
how the fast-flying mammals avoid colliding.
(No bats collided with the drone during the testing.)
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