For The Dark Knight Rises, Batman got a little air superiority in the form of a sleek Lucius Fox invention called "the Bat." The vehicle's got a big role to play in Batman's latest adventure, but according to an expert military researcher, the thing probably wouldn't even get off the ground.
Designed to be more maneuverable in city streets than a helicopter, the Bat uses a rotor system housed under its body to deliver both speed and maneuverability, all while remaining a sleek flying package. At least, that's the sales pitch Lucius Fox delivers to Bruce Wayne. But according to Mitchell Burnside Clapp, who manages the Disc-Rotor Compound Helicopter program for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Bat's compact design would be its undoing in the real world.
"The problem with a vehicle like the Bat is that it's going to have to generate enough thrust to hold itself off the ground," he said. "The main thrust appears to come from the belly rotor, while the other devices seem to be applied more to maneuvering."
Helicopters fly because their rotors generate thrust that's equal to or greater than the weight of the whole machine. The Bat would have to do the same to fly, but it's automatically easier for a helicopter because a helicopter uses rotors that extend well beyond the width of its body. Also, helicopter rotors circulate air from above to below, creating a downward thrust that creates lift. But the Bat's rotors are located beneath the machine, and that creates circulation issues, as well as stability issues. According to Burnside Clapp, keeping the Bat level would be a bit like " the problem of balancing a broomstick on your palm."
But all that just means it's really hard for the Bat to fly, but not impossible. Though he's not enthusiastic about the vehicle, Burnside Clapp is willing to admit that with enough power, you can get pretty much anything off the ground.
"The Bat, in the film, would need an unbelievable amount of power," he said. "Now, if you had a fusion reactor big enough to power a city that was small enough that you could carry it around in a medium truck, then ... "