Hummingbird Drone: Flies and Spies on Bad Guys

Filed in Gather News Channel by on March 1, 2011 0 Comments

The hummingbird drone, meant to be mistaken for a bird of nature, is actually a tiny device that can record sights and sounds. The Pentagon is spending millions on the development of these drones, which are equipped with video and audio equipment, because they can be used as spying devices. That cute little hummingbird flying in the neighborhood park could actually be a robo-spy.

Creeped out? Don’t be. These robots can–and will–be used to spy on the enemy and gather information. They are also being developed, however, with hopes of aiding those in need. One example would be to help “locate people inside earthquake-crumbled buildings,” according to MSNBC, who also says, “the devices could end up being used by police officers and firefighters.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency approached researchers at California’s AeroVironment and asked that they build “a pocket-sized aircraft for surveillance and reconnaissance that mimicked biology, and said it could be anything from a dragonfly to a hummingbird.”

A hummingbird is what they got. The robo-bird, which “weighs less than a AA battery,” can fly as fast as 11 mph and carries a tiny video camera in its belly. The bird can fly in all different directions: vertically, backwards, sideways; it can also rotate and hover.

Matt Keennon, senior project engineer of California’s AeroVironment, described the task as “very daunting.”  Among the toughest challenges was figuring out how to control the device and whether it could control itself. Another was how to enable it to fly for a prolonged period of time.

Most important, however, was to build the robot to seem real enough that when the cute little hummingbird sits perched on a window ledge or hovers above flowers, it appears to be nothing out of the ordinary.

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