Listening To Bats As They Search For Food

The range of human hearing goes up to about 20 kilohertz, which is fine for our purposes, but is pretty poor compared to plenty of other animal species. Dogs famously can hear up to about 60 kHz, and dolphins are known to distinguish sounds up to 100 kHz. But for extremely high frequencies we’ll want to take a step into the world of bats. Some use echolocation to locate each other and their food sources, and bats like the pipistrelle can listen in to sounds up to 350 kHz. To listen to them you’ll need a device like the π*pistrelle. (Ed Note: a better explanation is available at the project’s website.)

The original implementation of the bat detector was based on a Raspberry Pi Pico, from which it gets its name. But there have been several improvements on it in the years since it was first developed. The latest can detect bats when it hears their 350 kHz sonar calls thanks to an ultrasonic microphone and op amp. The device then records the bat sounds and then either heterodynes the sound down or time-expands it to human-audible range so the calls can actually be heard. There’s an LED display on the board as well as three input buttons, but an iOS companion app is available to interact with the device as well.

If you want to know for sure which species is flying around at night, you can use machine learning to help figure that out.

PIC Powered PicoBat Picks Up Pulsed Power

In 2012, [Bruno] wanted to detect some bats. Detect bats? Some varieties of bat (primarily the descriptively named “microbats”) locate themselves and their prey in space using echolocation, the same way your first robot probably did. The bat emits chirps from their adorably tiny larynx the same way a human uses its vocal cords to produce sound. The bat then listens for an echo of that sound and can make inferences about the location of its presumed prey in the volume around it. Bat detectors are devices which can detect these ultrasonic sounds and shift them into a range that humans can hear. So how would you build such a device? [Bruno]’s PicoBat probably sets the record for component count and code simplicity.

With no domain expertise the most conspicuous way to build a bat detector is probably to combine the glut of high performance microcontrollers with a similarly high performing analog to digital converter. With a little signal processing knowledge you sample the sounds at their native frequency, run them through a Fast Fourier transform, and look for energy in the ultrasonic frequency range, maybe about 20 kHz to 100 kHz, according to Wikipedia. With more knowledge about signal interference it turns out there are a surprisingly large number of ways to build such a device, including some which are purely analog. (Seriously, check out the Wikipedia page for the myriad ways this can be done.)

[Bruno] did use a microcontroller to build his bat detector, but not in the way we’d have expected. Instead of using a beastly high performance A/D and a similarly burly microcontroller, the PicoBat has a relatively tame PIC12 and a standard ultrasonic transducer, as well as a piezo buzzer for output. Along with a power rail, that’s the entire circuit. The code he’s running is similarly spartan. It configures a pair of GPIOs and toggles them, with no other logic. That’s it.

So how does this work? The ultrasonic transducer is designed mechanically to only receive sounds in the desired frequency range. Being piezoelectric, when enough sound pressure is applied the stress causes a small voltage. That voltage is fed into the PIC not as a GPIO but as a clock input. So the CPU only executes an instruction when ultrasonic sound with enough intensity hits the transducer. And the GPIO toggling routine takes four clock cycles to execute, yielding a 1:4 clock divider. And when the GPIOs toggle they flip the potential across the buzzer, causing it to make human-audible sound. Brilliant!

Check out [Bruno]’s video demo after the break to get a sense for how the device works. You might be able to do this same trick with other components, but we’re willing to be that you won’t beat the parts count.

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Batbot: Building A Functionally Correct Bat Wing Robot

Batbot is a project wherein the researchers are attempting to mimic the biological structure of a bat wing for flight. The desire is to attain the maneuverability and agility you see in bat flight due to the ever changing shape of their wings. Also, bats look really cool.  In attempting to mimic the structure, they have decided to use SMA based artificial muscles and steel tendons as opposed to the typical cam linkage you would see in most ornithopters.

Unfortunately, there’s no video of this bot attempting to fly. There is a video (below) of a presentation on the project that explains in detail what they are doing, and how they are doing it. It also has some really cool slow motion footage of real bats doing what they do.

[via Adafruit]

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Build A Simple Bat Detector

[Tony Messina] had been fascinated with bat’s echolocation since he was a kid. After he retired, he decided to act on this fascination and built a simple bat detector.

The simple bat detector uses frequency division to lower the bat’s chirping to a frequency we can hear. For example, if a bat is calling at 91kHz the system will divide it by 16 and put out 5.7kHz. The system is digital, so all amplitude is lost. You’ll just hear clicks like a Geiger counter. Being digital has its advantages though. Unlike similar analog devices that have to be tuned to a small frequency range, the simple bat detector can detect a much wider window.

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