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February 18, 2011

DARPA Backs Hummingbird Like Spy Robot

Especially in the robotics field, technology imitates life, and it seems that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has turned its attention from flying snakes to hummingbirds. In their most recent foray into spy bots DARPA has funded a tiny hovering robot capable of maneuvering in tight spaces and taking pictures.

The drone, built by AeroVironment closely resembles a hummingbird with a 6.5-inch wingspan and a weight of 19 grams. The drone can fly for about eight minutes, a far cry from its developmental record of only 20 seconds a short two years ago.

the device is the first-ever "controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle system with two flapping wings that carries its own energy source and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control," said AeroVironment in a recent Pop Science Article.

DARPA has a history with crazy developmental ideas like this, with possible applications in the defense industry that sometimes turn out just to be kind of interesting. For example earlier this year they focused on research with flying snakes for possible application in aeronautics, they have also reportedly invested n brain/machine interfaces and funded Boston Dynamic’s BigDog project.

Ideas like this have seldom generated practical applications, but at least they’re always fun.

Chris DiMarco is a Web Editor for RobotXworld. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University. Prior to joining TMC Chris worked with e-commerce provider Suresource as a contact center representative and development analyst. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Chris DiMarco

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