Smallest ever free-flying device

Tom James @ 17-08-2009

smallest-uavThe world’s smallest free-flying device has successfully flown. The DARPA-commissioned nano-air-vehicle flew TK without external support:

Aeronvironment has released a video that shows its “nano air vehicle” (NAV), which is the size of a small bird or large insect, hovering indoors without such crutches and under radio control. “It is capable of climbing and descending vertically, flying sideways left and right, as well as forward and backward, under remote control,” says the company….
Their ultimate ask is a ten-gram aircraft with a 7.5cm wingspan, which can carry a camera and explore caves and other potential hiding places. “It will need to fly at 10 metres per second and withstand 2.5-metre-per-second gusts of wind”

The micro-ornithopter/robot-insect concept has plenty of precedants in science fiction, and is another example of engineers borrowing from nature to solve engineering problems.

[from New Scientist, via Wired UK][image from ubergizmo]


DARPA <3 Dune: miniature ornithopter in development

Paul Raven @ 03-07-2009

Chalk yet another one up to Frank Herbert; the DARPA people have just awarded a Phase II contract extension (whatever that means) to a company called AeroVironment so that they can continue developing their ‘Mercury’ Nano Air Vehicle ornithopter prototype. [via Hack-A-Day]

Ornithopters – which feature heavily in the Dune series – are aircraft that are propelled by flapping their wings like a bird rather than using rotors, propellors or jets. Check out the Mercury prototype in action: