Bat-flight inspired MAVs will have improved aerodynamic properties, can fly over long distances and are more economical to run, said the team from University of Southampton and Imperial College London.

The wings change shape like bats in response to the forces they experience and have no mechanical parts - making MAVs incorporating them easier to maintain.

"We have successfully demonstrated the fundamental feasibility of MAVs incorporating wings that respond to their environment, just like those of the bats that have fuelled our thinking," said professor Bharath Ganapathisubramani from University of Southampton's aerodynamics and flight mechanics group.

"We have also shown in laboratory trials that active wings can dramatically alter the performance. The combined computational and experimental approach that characterised the project is unique in the field of bio-inspired MAV design," he explained.

The unique design of the wings incorporates electro-active polymers that make the wings stiffen and relax in response to an applied voltage and further enhances their performance.By changing the voltage input, the shape of the electroactive membrane and, therefore, aerodynamic characteristics can be altered during flight.