Robot hummingbird passes flight tests (w/ Video)

Eugen Leitl eugen at
Sat Feb 19 10:03:07 PST 2011

(remote-controlled micro-UAVs are already routinely used by LEOs
world wide)

Robot hummingbird passes flight tests (w/ Video)

February 18, 2011 by Lin Edwards 

Nano Air Vehicle

( -- A prototype robot spy "ornithopter," the Nano-Hummingbird,
has successfully completed flight trials in California. Developed by the
company AeroVironment Inc., the miniature spybot looks like a hummingbird
complete with flapping wings, and is only slightly larger and heavier than
most hummingbirds, but smaller than the largest species.

The Hummingbird's bird-shaped body is removable but it gives the bot an
uncanny resemblance to a real hummingbird. The vehicle can hover and maneuver
just like the bird.

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.

AeroVironment video of flight tests of its Nano Hummingbird flapping-wing
nano air vehicle, developed for DARPA.  Manager of the project, Matt Keennon,
said it had been a challenge to design and build the spybot because it
bpushes the limitations of aerodynamics.b 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.  DARPA's head of the Nano Air Vehicles (NAV)
program. Dr Todd Hylton, said the successful flight tests pave the way for
new vehicles that resemble small birds and match their agility. The new drone
is a departure from existing NAVs, which in the past have always resembled
helicopters or planes.

Nano Air Vehicle 360 Degree Flip

The current model is a prototype and more development is required before any
decisions are made on its deployment. Keennon said he expected the flight
time to improve as the spybot develops, and said he envisaged it could be
used for reconnaissance purposes in around a decade. He also said the final
version is unlikely to look like a hummingbird, which is rare even in parts
of the US, and he thinks a sparrow would be a better choice.  The US military
has funded the project, giving AeroVironment around $4 million since 2006.
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