Bats photo
Bats photo

Bats are powerful, graceful and precise fliers…most of the time.

While they use echolocation to dodge solid obstacles very well, sometimes the skies are just too crowded to avoid a few bat versions of fender benders. In the video above bat researchers from Winston-Salem State University set up high speed cameras to capture the movement of thousands of bats as they make their nightly exit from their home into the sky. They share their research in a video produced for bioGraphic a publication of the California Academy of Sciences.

The bats’ commute from home to work (gathering food) is just as crowded as any major interstate if not more, but somehow every day thousands of bats manage to fly out of the cave without a hitch. Researchers initially thought that the bats were able to avoid each other entirely, but as it turns out, some collisions are inevitable in the high-traffic area. Sounds just like rush hour.

Bats are still expert fliers, and most of the collisions don’t seem to result in injuries, but the bats aren’t the paragons of flight that we all thought they were. Knowing more about how bats fly (and what their limitations are) could have an impact on how other flying objects like drones are designed. Researchers also want to know more about bats because the furry flying mammals are incredibly important to the agricultural industry, providing pest control and pollination services.