The novel characteristics of pterosaurs: Biological inspiration for robotic vehicles

S. Chatterjee, R. Lind, B. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Bioinspiration and biomimetic have led to a variety of robotic designs, especially small autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles for urban environment that have taken cues from birds, bats, and insects. The ease with which these flying animals negotiate confined obstacle-cluttered airspace has long inspired engineers for designing small robots for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. However, one group of extinct flying animals, which flew over the heads of dinosaurs and dominated the Mesozoic skies for 160 million years, have been largely overlooked for designing small aircrafts, partly because they are extinct and their fossils are difficult to study because of preservational deformation. Recently, exquisite pterosaur fossils have been discovered, which provide critical insights into their dynamics. Tapejara wellnhoferi, a pterodactyloid from the Early Cretaceous (~110 million years ago) of Brazil, provides a platform that is particularly valuable for biomimicry of a robotic vehicle. This pterodactyloid had sophisticated sensor mechanisms for determining its aerodynamics, had a cranial crest that was destabilizing but provided agility, had highly articulated wings that enabled precise shape control, and had the ability to fly, walk, and sail. An initial design for a robotic vehicle is described, which incorporates some of the characteristics of the Tapejara wellnhoferi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-143
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Design and Nature and Ecodynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Aerial turning
  • Autonomous unmanned air vehicle in urban environment
  • Biomimetics
  • Early Cretaceous Tapejara
  • Flight dynamics
  • Forward placement of vertical tail
  • Multimodal locomotion
  • Pterodactylinspired robot
  • Pterodrone
  • Vertical takeoff and landing


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