In order to investigate the behavior of bats during the hunt, the researchers constructed the Chirocopter – a drones, capable of accompanying flocks of nocturnal predators.
Unmanned vehicles have been helping biologists for years: with their help, scientists were able to count the number of whales, check nesting birds and even find poachers. The new drone will help immerse themselves deeper into the life of animals and learn their habits in the natural environment: it is able to soar along with a pack of bats, when it goes to night fishing. The scientific name of the study group is Bats, or Chiroptera, and therefore the drone was named in their honor – Chirocopter. It is equipped with a microphone for recording echolocation signals that bats use for navigation, as well as a thermal camera that helps to see animals against the background of the evening sky due to the temperature difference. Similar technology was used to record bats before, but unlike stationary points, mobile drones have an obvious advantage.
As a trial, the team deployed the Chirocopter outside the cave in New Mexico, home to about 800,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats. Shortly before dawn, bats form dense clusters and return to the cave along a chaotic air “freeway” at a speed exceeding 100 kilometers per hour. Dron managed to accompany the flock for 84 minutes at altitudes of 5 to 50 meters, and the mice themselves were so many that scientists fixed up to 46 echolocation pulses per minute.