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​Using sensors to recreate a bat’s biological sonar system

Rob Olins, a local sculptor, uses a variety of different media and takes inspiration from architecture, the urban environment, landscape, acoustics, and modern engineering techniques. Working on behalf of Clearwell Caves, and with funding from Arts Council, Foresters Forest and Heritage Lottery Fund, Rob approached Cubik for help with an installation that focused on the different species of bat living in the caves.

The aim of the exhibit was to educate visitors about a bat’s ability to navigate their environment using their biological sonar system called echo location. Bats send out sound waves through their mouth and nose. When the sound waves hit an object, it produces an echo which bounces off the object and returns to the bats ear. They use this system to identify gaps and spaces to fly through ensuring that they do not fly into anything. Rob had the idea for an exhibit that would demonstrate echo location after noting the similarities to the rear parking sensors on his car.

To replicate the echo location system, it was decided that a connected chain of sensors would be placed either side of one of the cave passages, near where the bats roost. These sensors would be triggered when someone approached, sounding a repetitive beep that speeds up the closer the person gets. This enabled the visitor to close their eyes and zigzag through the tunnel without bumping into the wall. Despite being achieved by the children from the school class visits, our lead engineer Marijan seemed unable to complete the system – much to the team’s amusement.

The exhibit was live for a month and, following some experimentation with the proximity of the sensors, Rob and his colleagues at Clearwell Caves were satisfied with the final set up.

Speaking about the project, Rob Olins said:

“My experience working with Cubik was excellent. I gave them a challenge, which like many simple problems require a complex solution. Cubik solved the problem, on time and within budget.”

Cubik relished the challenge of designing a system like this with its technical complexities that also had to survive the harsh conditions. In addition, we were delighted to be given the opportunity to see the system in action and have a private tour of the cave system.

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Adrian Schmieder of HiETA commented: “Cubik’s quick turn-around of a functioning PCB has sped the delivery of the project and enabled me to focus on areas of the project in which HiETA has expertise.  The project is a great success and produced valuable information even from its first use.  I am very impressed with the support Cubik provided me throughout the project, from initial concept through to PCB delivery.  I will not hesitate to engage with them again as future PCB projects arise.”


Speaking about the collaboration between Inductosense and Cubik Innovation, Founder and CTO Dr Chenghuan Zhong (Bamboo) stated: “It was great working with the knowledgeable and experienced team at Cubik Innovation. They always provide full support as well as useful and thoughtful advice to us, helping us find solutions for really difficult problems.”


Geoff Jones, Aquabar Inventor: “It was a pleasure to work with Cubik on our project. Paul and Sam understood the concept at one meeting, and produced a solution filling the brief within two weeks which has enabled us to find a potential partner. We will certainly use Cubik for our production units later in the year, Many thanks.”

Plymouth University

Paul Davey, Associate Professor (SL) Plymouth University: “If you need a prototype developed to a high standard and on time you would be hard pushed to find someone better. They have highly trained, experienced engineers who get the job done.”

Clean Energy Prospector Ltd

Damon Rand, Head Product Design: “Paul and the team have really helped us speed up the turnaround on our prototypes and assure the manufacturability of our designs. If you’re designing electronics in the South-West, then Cubik is a great choice for short-run manufacturing.”