Robotic Hummingbird Spy

This robotic spy bird is a full-on ornithopter! A prototype developed by AeroVironment Inc.,


(Robotic hummingbird)

The ornithopter can fly into buildings under the control of an operator flying the spybot with the help of a feed from its tiny video camera. The prototype is capable of flying at speeds of up to 18 km/h (11 mph) and weighs 19 grams, which is about the same as an AA battery.

Manager of the project, Matt Keennon, said it had been a challenge to design and build the spybot because it “pushes the limitations of aerodynamics.” The specifications given to the firm by the Pentagon included being able to hover in an 8 km/h wind gust and being able to fly in and out of buildings via a normal door.

The spybot was developed for the US military's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The hummingbird appearance is intended to disguise the bot, although it would look decidedly out of place and would attract attention in most places in the world since hummingbirds are not found outside of the Americas.

Roger Zelazny wrote about robotic birds in his 1980 novel Changeling:

The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye and the parabola ear followed the dragon-riders north. A series of the larger fliers followed it at well-spaced intervals, to serve as relay points for the spy broadcasts...
(Read more about Zelazny's tracer-bird)

The tracer-bird was used for surveillance.

He saw the blue-bellied, gray-backed thing upon the sill overhead. It was turned as if watching them. A portion of its front end caught the sunlight and cast it down toward them... The tracer-bird followed their every step, hung upon their words...

Via PhysOrg.

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