In today’s Bulldog wrapup of science, health and technology news:

  • Meet Bat Bot, the new flying batlike drone (plus video)
  • Apple surges on iPhone sales
  • Facebook’s Oculus facing $500 million bill in copyright case
  • Facebook beats Street 4Q forecasts
  • Self-driving car prototypes need less human help, data show
  • Pfizer swings to 4Q profit after rough year, hikes 2017 view

The details:

  • Meet Bat Bot, the new flying bat-like drone (plus video)

Holy drone, Batman! Mechanical masterminds have spawned the Bat Bot, a soaring, sweeping and diving robot that may eventually fly circles around other drones.

Because it mimics the unique and more flexible way bats fly, this 3-ounce prototype could do a better and safer job getting into disaster sites and scoping out construction zones than bulky drones with spinning rotors, said the three authors of a study released Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. For example, it would have been ideal for going inside the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, said study co-author Seth Hutchinson, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois.

[VIDEO: Watch a video about the bat drone at ]

The bat robot flaps its wings for better aerial maneuvers, glides to save energy and dive bombs when needed. Eventually, the researchers hope to have it perch upside down like the real thing, but that will have to wait for the robot’s sequel.

Like the fictional crime fighter Batman, the researchers turned to the flying mammal for inspiration

“Whenever I see bats make sharp turns and perform upside down, perching with such elegant wing movements and deformations, I get mesmerized,” said another author, Soon-Jo Chung, a professor of aerospace at the California Institute of Technology.

The Bat Bot has nine joints and measures slightly less than 8 inches from head to tail. Its super-thin membrane wings span about a foot and a half. The flexible flapping — as much as 10 times per second — acts “like a big power amplifier,” Hutchinson said.

The researchers still need to add cameras, build more drones and get permission from federal agencies to fly them, but Hutchinson said these bat robots could be flying around work sites and disaster zones within five years. It’s already taken three years and cost $1.5 million, including a team of experts from Brown University who studied bat flight, Hutchinson said.

  • Apple surges on iPhone sales

Investors didn’t react much to a strong hiring survey or the Federal Reserve’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged Wednesday, and U.S. stock indexes finished pretty much where they started. Apple soared some 7 percent after it said iPhone sales improved in its latest quarter.

  • Facebook’s Oculus facing $500 million bill in copyright case

Facebook’s virtual-reality subsidiary and two of its founders are facing a sobering reality after a jury hit them with a $500 million bill for infringing on the rights of a video-game maker.

The verdict reached Wednesday in a Dallas federal court represents about one-fourth of the $2 billion that Facebook paid two years ago to buy Oculus, a developer of virtual-reality gear and software.

The jury concluded that Oculus and co-founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe infringed on ZeniMax Media’s copyrights and trademarks as they built their products.

Oculus is on the hook for $300 million in damages. Iribe is responsible for $150 million, and Luckey is saddled with the remaining $50 million. Oculus says it will appeal.

  • Facebook beats Street 4Q forecasts

Facebook blew past Wall Street’s expectations yet again with its quarterly earnings report, despite some concerns that its “ad load,” or the number of advertisements it can show users without clogging up their feed, has reached its limit.

  • Self-driving car prototypes need less human help, data show

Self-driving car prototypes appear to be getting better at negotiating California streets and highways without a human backup needing to intervene. California regulators released documents Wednesday that report data from 11 companies testing the technology on public roads. The reports catalog the number of times in 2016 that humans took control from the cars’ software. Google’s self-driving car project that has been rebranded Waymo improved notably.

  • Pfizer swings to 4Q profit after rough year, hikes 2017 view

Pfizer posted disappointing profit for the fourth quarter to cap a difficult 2016, but it predicted slightly better results for this year.

The biggest U.S. drugmaker earned less than analysts had expected, but revenue came in higher than projected.

The maker of Viagra and pain treatment Lyrica on Tuesday reported net income of $775 million, or 13 cents per share, versus a loss of $172 million a year ago, as it reduced spending on administration, sales, marketing and lawsuits.

Excluding one-time items, profit was 47 cents per share, 3 cents below analyst estimates. Quarterly revenue totaled $13.63 billion, just above the $13.55 billion Wall Street had expected.

“As we look at the year ahead, Pfizer’s well positioned,” CEO Ian Read told analysts on a conference call.