Monday, June 20, 2011

Big things in tiny (winged) packages

Unmanned aircraft have been in the news a lot lately, mostly in terms of blowing things up. Air & Space has a fascinating piece in its July issue about the future of combat drones, and this excellent New York Times photo gallery shows some insight into other innovations.

That's where this caught my eye:

Flight of the bumblerobot.

A tiny drone the size--and shape--of a hummingbird. There are several mind-blowing things about this thing. First of all, it flies using the mechanics of an actual hummingbird; this is not a pursuit that has traditionally gone well for humans.


Second of all, it is camouflaged in such a way that if you didn't look too closely (or weren't looking for a robot bird, period), you might not even notice it's there. And finally, they made this drone useful: it doesn't just fly around in a novel way, it sends a live video feed. Sure, it's currently "60 Minutes ambush lapel-cam" quality, but that will only improve.

I, of course, am a huge fan of grand aerospace projects. But this pint-sized project is pretty easy to root for, too.

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