THE LAB — Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a self-flying mechanical flying fox!
To be more specific, it's the BionicFlyingFox made by the German company Festo.
This company's Bionic Learning Network focuses on using "principles from nature to provide new impetus for technology and industrial applications," according to its YouTube Channel. And this time it focused on the unique wing structure of the flying fox, a type of megabat.
The machine weighs in at only 20 ounces, even though it has about 45,000 weld points. Both these features help keep the creature agile and airborne, but it's the unique wing fabric that keeps the structure "wafer thin" and makes it all come together (It is bat-based after all).
The fabric used for the wing membrane is an elastane fiber that's knitted in a honeycomb pattern. This pattern stops the fabric from stretching out during flight, and the machine can keep flying even if the fabric has some damage, according to Festo.
On top of all of that, the machine is self-flying. The BionicFlyingFox still needs help on takeoff and landing, but once it's in the air, the autopilot programming takes over. It also learns to fly better each time it completes each of its predetermined flight paths.
All that science is neat and stuff, but none of it quite matters to a layperson unless the machine flies. And fly it does, with majesty and mechanical grace as you'll see in the video.