Small Robot Surveillance Balloons Like Niven's Copseye

A new patent describes a miniature robot surveillance balloon that would be capable of autonomous movement in groups.


(Miniature robot surveillance balloon)

Some of the device's planned capabilities:

These miniature surveillance balloons are essentially robots--capable of operating on their own when necessary. They also are able to operate in an intelligent cluster where together they can accomplish a goal by coordinating their efforts. Thus they become a socially interactive multiple robot system. Methods for controlling and manipulating a cluster of such robots have been described in a number of prior art references.

What is currently lacking, besides miniaturization, is the ability of a robot surveillance balloon to control its position in order to coordinate with other such balloons to effectively cover the deployment such that the desired surveillance objective is properly viewed. To do this, a balloon should have the ability to control its motion in both vertical and lateral directions.

These small surveillance bot balloons could also carry a small charge for use as an offensive weapon.

SF readers are immediately reminded of the copseyes from Larry Niven's 1972 story Cloak of Anarchy:

Someone at police headquarters had expected that. Twice the usual number of copseyes floated overhead, waiting. Gold dots ageist blue, basketball-sized, twelve feet up. Each a television eye and a sonic stunner, each a hookup to police headquarters, they were there to enforce the law of the Park.

As I recall from the story, the copseyes also were able to float around in small, directed groups.

Update 26-Mar-2008: Thanks also to Rod, who reminds me that the Honeywell ducted-fan MAV is being tested in Florida; see Honeywell MAV Tested By Miami Police for pictures and details. End update

Via Robot spy balloons.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/25/2008)

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